West Virginia Snakes: Pictures and Identification Help

picture of an Eastern Ribbon snake

West Virginia snakes number around twenty species, putting the state in the middle of the pack in terms of snake diversity. The vast majority of the state’s snakes are in the Colubrid family, the most common types of snakes found all over the United States.

Please press the green Snakes button for more snake pictures and identification help.

West Virginia residents are most likely aware of their two Garter Snakes. They are commonly called garden snakes and they tend to feel right at home in residential areas around the state.

The name Ribbon snakes refers to a group of snakes in the genus Thamnophis. They are differentiated from the other garter snakes by the presence of longer tails and a light patch in front of the eye. The Eastern Ribbon Snake in the picture shows that physical features.

West Virginia’s Common Garter Snake is a rather bland looking species and easy to identify basically because it’s the primary species in most East Coast states.

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.

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.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

picture of an  Eastern King snake, credit Greg Gilbert, Flickr
ThreeLampropeltis species inhabit West Virginia. Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) in West Virginia generally have a black body with with a series of thin white bands down the back.

picture of an Eastern 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.

Also look for the Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra).


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.

West Virginia has the Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon), probably the species with the widest range. 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

picture of a Black Rat Snake
Two Rat Snakes, the Black Rat Snake and Corn Snake reside in West Virginia.

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

Still More Colibrid Snakes

picture of a ring-necked snake face and neck
The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) 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.

picture of a Dekay's Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi). Credit Melissa Mcmaster Flickr
West Virginia has two of the three Storeria species:

  • Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
  • Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
They grow to be around a foot in length, and they are reasonably habitat adaptable.

Red-bellied snakes live mostly in wooded areas. Brownsnakes even adapt to city life. The picture shows the Dekay’s Brown Snake.

Also look for these West Virginia snakes.

  • Eastern Hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
  • Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
  • Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
  • Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae)
  • Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus)
  • Pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
  • Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata)

West Virginia Venommous Snakes

picture of a copperhead snake

Two venomous snakes, the Copperhead snake and Timber Rattlesnake present concerns for West Virginia residents.

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.

picture of a timber rattlesnake
The Timber Rattlesnake pictured is probably the most common species in the United States. It lives in most states east of the Rocky Mountains.

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