While the official total number of South Carolina snakes hovers around the forty mark, most visitors to South Carolina actually want to know about the state’s six venomous snakes.
- Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
- Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
- Harlequin Coralsnake (Micrurus fulvius)
- Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)
- Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
Good news. Tourists need to always be aware of but not always afraid of potential venomous snakes. The explanation requires a few introductory remarks.
Copperheads are common throughout the state. Cottonmouths or Water Moccasins are common in the east, where both snakes share a preference for water habitats. The coastal area golf courses popular with the tourist crowd also contain water areas that these snakes might call home. The picture shows a Cottonmouth snake or Water Moccasin. They have the darker blotched body compared to the Copperhead.
Rattlesnakes also live along the coastal areas. Occasionally a sensational story of one on the beach makes headlines.
The best South Carolina snakes advice starts by saying yes they are dangerous snakes. Think logically. The odds of any person getting bit by a venomous snake are extremely low. In the event of any sighting, there’s little doubt that someone would immediately post a picture on social media, and it would be the news of the day. Everyone enjoys a snake story even if they do not enjoy a snake encounter. The fact that venomous snake sighting happens so infrequently also testifies to the infrequency of snake bites.
The remainder of the article provides pictures and descriptions of some of the state’s most common snakes. Snake diversity in South Carolina is fairly high and page space limits the number of species that can be presented. Please press the snakes button for additional snake pictures and information.
South Carolina hosts five Water Snakes (genus Nerodia). Because of their habitat preferences and general look they are often the snakes most mistaken for the venomous snakes. According to South Carolina Public Radio,
Water Snakes are often mistaken for Copperheads because some Water Snakes’ colors are similar to those of the Copperhead. However, the pattern on the water snake is always narrow on the sides and wide near the backbone. This is the opposite of the pattern found on the Copperhead.
Like Copperheads, they inhabit all areas of the state. Additionally, most have overlapping territory, especially in the geographical center of the state. The Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon), for example is the only mountain species. However, its range does extend to the western piedmont area.
Older specimens of water snakes can be difficult to identify because their bodies tend to turn darker with age, eliminating the usual physical identification clues. Red-bellied watersnakes, another common species, might be the exception to the rule. The presence of the red belly is usually all that is needed for a proper identification.
Racers and Whipsnakes
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States.
In fact eleven different subspecies inhabit almost every state in the lower 48 states. Color is a common name applied to many of the species as well as the Black Racer. Blue Racers, for example are common around the Great Lakes region.
The snakes best known as Black racers inhabit most areas in the East from southern Maine to the Florida Keys. They are long, thin snakes with a black body, and as the picture highlights, white chins.
Whipsnakes (Masticophis flagellum) rank as the most common species, with subspecies living in states from Florida, west to California. Many of the subspecies have different color patterns from red to yellow to brown to dark to tan. Body color in these snakes is very much a function of geography and climate.
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes
Kingsnakes experienced some evolutionary good fortune. They are immune to the bites of South Carolina’s venomous snakes, placing them at the top of the South Carolina snake pecking order.
Like other constrictors, they bite their prey and then proceed to wrap their body around it until it can no longer breath. Humans need not worry, they are otherwise peaceful and nonvenomous snakes.
Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) generally have a black body with with a series of thin white bands down the back.
Two subspecies of milk snakes, the Eastern and Scarlet inhabit South Carolina. While the ranges are not perfect, usually the milksnake is more common the the mountains and the Scarlet Milk Snake inhabits most of the Piedmont and Coastal areas. The picture shows the Eastern Milk Snake.
For identification purposes, the Scarletsnake (Cemophora coccinea) also gets into the conversation because as the picture shows, it looks very similar to a Milksnake or Kingsnake. They are a separate genera and fairly common in the Southeast.
South Carolina snakes also includes three subspeices of the basic eastern Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta). Black ratsnakes live in the mountains and piedmont areas. Gray ratsnakes live on the Piedmont borders.
Many tourists might cross paths with the Yellow ratsnake. They inhabit areas along coastal South Carolina. All three subspecies are adapted to human living environments, and can often be found in residential areas climbing trees. Their primary diet is rodents.
Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are the smaller relatives of ratsnakes and they are also common in South Carolina, especially in the longleaf pine forests. Like other rat snakes, they too are known for climbing trees.
More Colubrid Snakes
Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) is one of South Carolina’s most common snakes. It’s found in fields, forests and residential areas, including the tourist populated coastal areas. They only grow to be abut a foot in length and they are harmless.
The list of South Carolina snakes would not be complete without giving mention to these additional species.
- The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
- Indigo snakes (genus Drymarchon)
- Mud Snake
- Rainbow Snake
- Mole Kingsnakes or Yellow-bellied Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)
- Common Garter Snake
- Eastern Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis sauritus)
- Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata)
- Pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
- Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
- Black Swampsnake (Liodytes pygaea)
- Glossy Crayfish Snake (Liodytes rigida)
- Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula)
- Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus)
- Eastern Hognose snakes (Heterodon platirhinos)
- Southern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon simus)
- Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata)
- Smooth Earthsnakes (Virginia valeriae)
- Pine Woods Snake (Rhadinaea flavilata)
- Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata)
- Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides)
- Northern Red-bellied Snake