Vermont, like all New England, ranks low on the snake diversity scale. A cold climate makes for an inhospitable habitat for all but the hardiest of snakes.
The eleven Vermont snakes presented here all meet the hardiness criteria. Additionally they share the characteristic of being relatively small snakes that can bury themselves beneath the frozen soil for the winter.
All Vermont snakes however, do not share similar population levels. Four of the snakes are listed as rare, threatened or endangered.
Most reports on snakes initially or eventually get to the topic of venomous snakes. Rightfully so. Any snake that causes potential harm to humans needs to be addressed for safety reasons.
Only one venomous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake lives in Vermont. Despite the initial fears, it’s very rare and listed as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” in the state. Current populations are only registered in one eastern county and a handful of western counties.
Please press the snake button for more pictures and information about venomous snakes and other snakes in general.
The remainder of Vermont snakes belong to the nonthreatening Colubrid family. It starts with Eastern Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum). They are a common, adaptable and colorful snake species that finds a home in many of Vermont’s fields, forests and farms.
Finding Milk Snakes can be as easy as taking a hike. They enjoy basking in the sun. Flipping over a few big rocks or logs also uncovers them and other Vermont snakes.
Milksnakes grow up to on average about three feet in length and the red to orange to dull rust color of the bands makes them easy to spot.
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. Their range extends into the southeast part of Vermont. Their population is listed as threatened.
Physically racers are long, thin snakes with a black body, and as the picture highlights, white chins.
The Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) has the widest range of all Nerodia species. It’s hardy enough to withstand the cold Vermont winters. Identifying it is fairly easy. They are large and bulky snakes that live in and near the water. It’s the only species in the state.
Body color changes depending on age and location, so often it’s not the best field identification clue. Knowing that it’s the only species in the state is the best clue.
Rat snakes are the general name given to a group of constrictors that inhabit various regions of the East and Midwest. In many areas, including Vermont, they are also the largest snakes.
Their rodent diet and their propensity to inhabit areas with human populations often translated into the humans calling them rat snakes based primarily on the snake’s diet.
The all black body makes it a fairly easy species to recognize if someone crosses paths with it. Rat Snakes are a rare and threatened species in Vermont.
Ribbon snakes refers to a group of snakes in the genus Thamnophis, differentiated by the presence of longer tails and a light patch in front of the eye. Eastern Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) share those same physical features.
The Eastern Ribbon Snake has a distinct pattern on the body as well as the common stripes. It is designated as rare in Vermont.
Garter snake identification can be a fun activity because they are not aggressive snakes and taking the time to look at one means little personal harm to the observer. Their body color can range from blue, prominent in Florida blue garter snakes, to the many shades of red visible in West Coast species.
The Common Garter Snake in the picture is a rather bland looking species and easy to identify basically because it’s the primary species in most East Coast states. It’s also the most wide ranging of all the garter snakes and found in almost all of the lower 48 states.
More Vermont Colubrid Snakes
The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) in the second picture is a common Colubrid species, found in most areas of the United States. It’s also the only member of the genus.
The dual color body, dark on the top and a bright shade of orange or yellow on the bottom serve as the best field identification clues. The picture highlights the snake’s characteristic ring neck mark. While ring-neck snake bites are rare, touching them is not recommended. They can secrete a foul smelling chemical.
DeKay’s Brownsnakes inhabit lower elevation wetlands. They are fairly common around Lake Champlain.
Red-bellied snakes live mostly in wooded areas. They might rank behind Common Garter snakes as the most common snakes in the state.
Two species of Greensnakes are fairly common in the East, Rough Greensnakes (Opheodrys aestivus) and Smooth Greensnakes (Opheodrys vernalis) vernalis). The names Rough and Smooth describe the types of scales on the snake.
Vermont is home to the Smooth Greensnakes. Many people also call them grass snakes. They are insectivores who consume a good deal of grasshoppers and other pesty insects that live in the grasslands of southern Vermont.