Virginia Snakes: Pictures and Identification Help

picture of a Water Moccasin, one of the three veomous snakes in Virginia

The thirty two species of Virginia snakes includes three of the four types of venomous snakes known to most southerners, copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.

Copperheads grow to an average three feet in length and their light body is covered with darker crossbands. The head shows a characteristic copper color. They are the most common venomous snake, found in more corners of the state.

Populations of Cottonmouth Snakes pictured, are limited to water areas of the Southeast.

The remainder of this section focuses on the more common and less dangerous snakes in the colubrid family. Most people recognize their common names such as garter snakes, rat snakes and milk snakes.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

picture of an Eastern King snake from Georgia, credit Kayaker, Flickr
Kingsnakes and Milksnakes add a nice element of diversity to the Virginia snakes list. Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula), for example, are the dominant kingsnake species. They generally have a black body with a series of thin white bands down the back. The picture shows a face view of the Eastern Kingsnake.

Residents also look out for three additional Kingsnake species:

  • Yellow-bellied Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)
  • Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides)
  • Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra)

The Scarlet and Black Kingsnakes have very small populations. The Yellow-bellied subspecies in Virginia is common in all areas east of the mountains.

picture of a Milk Snake
Eastern Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) are very adaptable snakes, inhabiting multiples areas from fields to forests to farms. Finding Milk Snakes in the east can be as easy as taking a hike and flipping over a few big rocks or logs. The can 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.

Rat Snakes

picture of a Black Rat Snake in Virginia, credit, Cygnus921 Flickr
Rat snakes are the general name given to a group of constrictors that inhabit various regions of the East and Midwest. 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.

While many of the species have common names with rat snake included, other species are known as Corn Snakes and Fox Snakes. Their large size and fairly docile manner means there’s always talk about them in the reptile trade. Probably the corn snake is the most common of the species in the pet trade.

The Black Rat Snake ranks as the most wide ranging of the species. The all black body makes it a fairly easy species to recognize.

picture of a Corn Snake
The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) inhabits a variety of forest areas in the center areas of Virginia.

The picture highlights two facts. First the orange to red color explains a common nickname, red rat snake. Second, they, like other rat snakes are very good climbers. They climb trees primarily in search of bird prey. However, they can also fall prey to the large predatory birds such as raptors.


picture of a Northern Watersnake
While all snakes possess the ability to swim, Water Snakes (genus Nerodia) get their name because of their close association with water habitats.

With the exception of the Pacific Northwest, nine different species inhabit most areas of North America. All but one species, the Salt Marsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii) inhabit fresh water areas from small ponds to large rivers.

The Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) extends its range throughout the state. Both the Brown Watersnake and Plain-bellied Watersnake can be found in the southeast.

Racers and Whipsnakes

picture of a Black Racer snake, credit Bobistraveling Flickr
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States. They are very common in the Commonwealth.

Hog-nosed Snakes

picture of an Eastern Hognose snake
Eastern Hognose snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) can assume a variety of colors and are the most wide ranging of species. They are fairly common in the state.

Garter Snakes

picture of an Eastern Ribbon snake
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.

Virginia also is home to the Common Garter Snake.

More Virginia Colubrid Snakes

picture of a Scarletsnake (Cemophora coccinea)
It’s easy to mistake the Scarletsnake (Cemophora coccinea) for a Milksnake or Kingsnake. They are a separate genera and fairly common in the Southeast.

A red face and red blotches surrounded by black bands are good field identification clues.

picture of a Mud Snake, credit Ashley Tubbs Flickr
Snakes in the genus Farancia, don’t get much copy or recognition, primarily because they inhabit areas most often not inhabited by humans. Two species, the Mud Snake and Rainbow Snake live in the muddy waters of ponds, creeks, swamps and slow moving Southeast streams, and the range also extends a bit up the Mississippi River Valley.

The picture shows the Mud Snake, a striking black and red colored snake. Rainbow Snakes have red lines down the body. Both species can grow to be fairly large and robust, in the five to six foot range. Mud Snakes consume water based amphibians such as sirens and salamanders. Rainbow Snakes, at least the adults, consume eels.

Both species live in the southeast portions of Virginia.

picture of an Eastern Worm Snake
Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus) is a very small and thin snake that inhabits forested areas in most parts of Virginia.

picture of a Smooth Earth Snake, Stephen Horvath, Flickr
Smooth Earthsnakes (Virginia valeriae) are the only representative of the Virginia genera. They are fairly common in the East and easily recognized by their smooth brown body.

picture of a Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis), Cygnus921, Flickr
Virginia residents can often see Smooth Greensnakes in the yard. They grow about a foot in length and are sometimes called grass snakes. Their diet consists of insects in their territory.

Space limitations means some of the snake pictures and information can be found by pressing the snakes button at the top of the page. Here’s a quick list of the remaining Virginia snakes.

  • Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata
  • Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
  • Pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
  • Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
  • Glossy Crayfish Snake (Liodytes rigida)
  • Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula)
  • Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma)
  • Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata)
  • Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
  • Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)

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