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Snakes (suborder Serpentes, order Squamata, class Reptilia, subphylum Vertebrata, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukarya)

Snakes share the Squamata order with lizards.  All of the snakes on this page are members of the Alethinophidia infraorder, which includes most snakes.  The other infraorder, Scolecophidia, includes blind snakes (with vestigial eyes), which live in the Southwest and Mexico.  About two thirds of all snakes belong to the Colubridae family. 

Of all of the snakes pictured here, only the Copperhead is venomous.  The other four poisonous snakes in North Carolina and South Carolina are the Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius), the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), the Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous) and the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus).  All of these snakes are members of the Viperidae family.  However, it's worth noting that some non-venomous snakes can inflict significant physical injury with their fangs if handled.  While this page might help you with snake identification, it cannot guarantee that any snake that you encounter will not be dangerous.  Regard it as a guide to appreciating these very diverse creatures.

These snake classifications constitute valid taxa according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System.

Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortix, subfamily Crotalinae, family Viperidae)

Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortix), Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare County, NC,  9/25/04.  This snake was originally seen on the trail by someone else but had moved into the bushes beside it before I got this photo. Copperhead, Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, Durham County, NC, 7/22/09.  It was not quite 2 feet long. Northern Copperhead, Durham, NC, 10/28/13 Same Northern Copperhead, about a foot long. The yellowish "tail" shows that it's a juvenile.  

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus, Subfamily Crotalinae, Family Viperidae)

Timber Rattlesnake, Hardy County, WV, mid-June 2011.  Photo taken by John Cassidy, who spotted it when it attacked a chipmunk.        

Eastern Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi, subfamily Natricinae, family Colubridae)

Eastern Brownsnake, Durham, NC, 11/16/13 Eastern Brownsnake, Durham, NC, 12/16/19 Eastern Brownsnake, Durham, 10/26/05 Same snake as on left. Eastern Brownsnake I found lying coiled up on the Third Fork Creek Trail, Durham, NC, 12/13/12.  It quickly became lively when I picked it up. Another view of the Eastern Brownsnake on the left. Eastern Brownsnake, Third Fork Creek Trail, Durham, NC, 11/19/12, seen during a month-long cold spell following Hurricane Sandy.    

Redbelly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster, subfamily Natricinae, family Colubridae)

Adult Redbelly Water Snake, Dare County, NC, 5/7/06 Adult Redbelly Water Snake, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 4/18/05. Juvenile Redbelly Water Snake, Jordan Lake shore, Chatham County, NC, 9/11/05.  About six inches long.


Redbelly Water Snake, Durham, NC, 5/17/06 Redbelly Water Snake eating and American Toad, 5/25/06 Redbelly Water Snake swimming across water at the Southpoint Swamp, Durham, NC, 3/16/11

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon, subfamily Natricinae, family Colubridae)

Northern Water Snake, Indian Creek Trail, a Jordan Lake Game Land, Chatham County, NC, 7/7/06.  This snake froze in place near the eagle-viewing station. Northern Water Snake,  Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, 4/4/07.  Seen on a rock in Bobbitt's Hole. Northern Water Snake, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/13/07.  The greenish cast is from grass blades in the foreground.    


Northern Water Snake, Durham, NC, 7/6/07.  About a foot long. Northern Water Snake, NC Zoo (not captive), Asheboro, NC, 5/9/07 Northern Water Snake with a Yellow Bullhead (a large fish) in its jaws.  Photo by Jesse Degnan.  

Northern Water Snake, Durham, NC, 7/1/07.  This was a small snake, less than a foot long.

Carolina Saltmarsh Snake (Nerodia sipedon williamengelsi, Natricinae subfamily, Colubridae family)

Carolina Saltmarsh Snake, Ocracoke Island, Hyde County, NC, 5/9/06.  ID thanks to Ed Corey via Ali Iyoob.

Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis, subfamily Natricinae, family Colubridae)


Eastern Garter Snake, Durham, NC, 6/23/08 Eastern Garter Snake, Durham, NC, 10/6/14 Eastern Garter Snake, wriggled in and out of the grass. On greenway.  Boone, Watauga County, NC, 6/14/15

Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus, subfamily Natricinae, family Colubridae)

Eastern Ribbon Snake. It's not every day that you get a snake and a Pink Lady's Slipper in the same picture, but that's what I did at Falling Creek Camp near Tuxedo, NC, on 5/25/03. Eastern Ribbon Snake, Pettigrew State Park, 1/1/06.  Garter snakes have one striking characteristic in common: they really move!

Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus ameonus, Xenodontinae subfamily, Colubridae family)

Eastern Worm Snake, Eno River State Park, Orange County, NC, 4/24/11 Eastern Worm Snake, found in leaf litter, Durham, NC, 10/30/09 Same Eastern Worm Snake, Durham, NC, 10/30/09 Worm Snake, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Wake County, NC, 10/28/09

Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor, family Colubridae)

Racer species, Northern Black Racer subspecies, Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 12/28/08.  This snake stayed motionless except for wiggling its tail and occasionally showing its tongue. A Black Racer, which retreated underground as I came closer. Durham, NC, 6/7/15 Racer species, Northern Black Racer subspecies, Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 11/9/02.  The name was misleading in this situation: this snake barely moved.  Josh Rose of Duke University identified this one. This Northern Black Racer was moving at a relatively leisurely pace next to the path in Falls Lake State Park, Wake County, NC on 8/1/04.

Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getulus, family Colubridae) and Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata)

Copyright © 2006 Lynn Morris
Eastern Kingsnake (black and white) and Corn Snake (brown) tangled in Lynn's Hubert (Onslow County, NC) back yard, 9/23/06. While it's not clear which is constricting the other, kingsnakes eat other snakes regularly and are resistant to snake venom, hence their English name.

Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus, family Colubridae)

Rough Green Snake, River Park North, Greenville, Pitt County, NC, 9/26/13 Rough Green Snake, Durham, 5/23/05.  I saw this snake when it crossed a walking path in my neighborhood.  After taking the photos, I chased it into the woods nearby. Same snake. This Rough Green Snake was evidently surprised by our recent hot spell in Durham on 6/7/05, when temperatures soared into the upper 80s.  I found it lying in the road in apparently dehydrated condition and removed it to the woods, where I took this picture.  It offered no resistance, and the loss of green pigment showed it to be only marginally alive.

Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata, family Colubridae)

Yellow Rat Snake, Ft. Fisher Recreation Area, Battery Buchanan Tour Stop, New Hanover County, NC, 5/24/11  Same Yellow Rat Snake           

Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta, family Colubridae)

Black Rat Snake, Durham, NC, 3/27/20 Black Rat Snake, Third Fork Trail, Durham, NC, 7/30/11 Black Rat Snake, NC Botanical Garden, 5/29/05.  Note the black stripes on the dark gray background. Black Rat Snake, Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Rd. access, Orange County, NC, 6/15/06 Black Rat Snake, Quarry Trail, Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC, 8/19/06.  This snake remained motionless in this position while keeping on eye on me.

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Copyright 2005-2020 Dorothy E. Pugh, except where specified as work by named photographers.