Snakes of South Carolina

South Carolina is home to an outstanding diversity of snakes that have fascinated herpetologist and naturalists for centuries. With 38 speices, snakes can be found in all of South Carolinas habitats and landscapes. They fill unique niches and play intregral roles as both predators and prey. Explore the species list below and click on the description or photo to open a more detailed account. 

Colubridae - Advanced Snakes

Eastern Worm Snake
(Carphophis amoenus)

This is a small, un-patterned, brown snake with a narrow head, small black eyes, smooth shiny scales, and a pointed tail. The ventral surface of this snake usually has a pinkish hue that extends up the sides on 1 – 2 rows of dorsal scales and can be seen when viewing this snake from above. The dorsal coloration can range from tan to dark brown and can often have an iridescent shimmer. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Scarlet Snake
(Cemophora coccinea)

The scarlet snake is a small slender snake that is vibrantly colored. They have large red spots boarded by black that extend from one side of the snake to the other and separated by white or yellowish ground coloration. From above, the snake looks as if it has a series of red, black and yellow bands extending down the body. The top of the head is red and the underside is solid white in coloration.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

North American Racer
(Coluber constrictor)

A long slender snake that can reach adult sizes up to 60 inches (152cm). They are solid black above, have smooth scales and large eyes. The underside is generally dark grey to black. Some white may show on the underside of the head. Juveniles are grayish in color with brown to reddish blotches on the back.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Coachwhip
(Coluber flagellum)

A long slender brown snake that has a dark brown head that fades to light brown or tan coloration further down the body continuing to the tail. This is one of the longest snakes in the Southeastern United States with adults reaching up over 72 inches (244cm) in length. The dark edging to the smooth tan scales makes the snake resemble a braided whip which gives the snake its name. Juveniles are typically tan on their whole body and may have irregular dark bands on the head and neck.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Ring-necked Snake
(Diadophis punctatus)

This small snake is dark gray to black above and yellow to orange on the belly. There is often a dark spot at the center of each ventral scale. The head of this snake is black with pale yellow lip scales (labials) and there is a namesake yellow ring on the collar. Rarely will this snake exceed 10-15 inches (25 – 38cm) in length.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Mud Snake
(Farancia abacura)

The Mud Snake is a long, fairly heavy-bodied snake that is mostly glossy black in coloration with a red checkerboard pattern on the belly that extends up to the sides. In some populations this belly coloration can be pink or white. The length of this snake can reach up to 80 inches (207cm). The scales are smooth and they have a hard, sharp spine at the end of their tail. Juveniles are similar to adults, but with more of the belly pattern extending up on the sides of the body.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills 

Rainbow Snake
(Farancia erytrogramma)

Owning up to its name, the Rainbow Snake is one of the most colorful and beautiful snakes in the Southeastern United States. This snake can be quite large with lengths up to 66 inches (168cm). Dorsally this snake has three red lines running down a dark stout body. The sides of the snake are usually yellow and the scales are smooth giving the snake has a glossy appearance. The underside is pink to reddish and The eyes of the snake are small and dark, and the tip of the tail is pointed.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Rough Earth Snake
(Haldea striatula)

A small slender brown snake with keeled scales and a light brown to whitish belly. The head is generally darker brown than the body and some individuals, especially juveniles, may have a pale, light brown band on the neck. The adults average in size from 7-10 inches (18-25cm).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
(Heterodon platirhinos)

As their name implies, “Hognose” snakes are identifiable by their stout bodies and upturned snout. The Eastern Hognose Snake can be incredibly variable in appearance across its range. Many individuals are tan to brown with dark blotches across back. Some individuals may have reddish or orange highlights incorporated in the pattern. There are also pattern-less individuals that will be entirely black or grey in color. The underside of the tail lighter than the belly.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Southern Hog-nosed Snake
(Heterodon simus)

Like other hognose snakes, this snake has a stout body, keeled scales and an upturned snout. They can reach up to two feet in length and are generally gray, light brown, or reddish in color with darker blotches going down the back and sides. The underside is pale to grayish and the underside of the tail is the same color as the belly (unlike the Eastern Hognose Snake– see similar species).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Prairie Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis calligaster)

Also known as a Mole Kingsnake, this medium sized snake (30 – 50 inches) has a light brown or orange body with a row of reddish-brown spots on the spine going down the length of the body. The scales are smooth and the underside is pale to yellow with dark mottling. Juveniles have a bit more distinct patterning compared to adults, and some older individuals may have little contrast in their patterning.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Scarlet Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis elapsoides)

This is one of the most colorful and vibrant snakes in the Southeastern United States. Their body is a collection of red, black, and yellow/whitish bands. The red bands are almost always surrounded by the black bands and the front of the snakes head is red. These colored bands extend around the whole snake, both dorsum and belly. Adults average in size between 15-20 inches.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Eastern Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis getula)

The Eastern Kingsnake is a long black snake with smooth scales and yellow/whitish chain-link markings extending down the back and connecting on the sides. Adults can reach lengths of up to five feet. The belly is dark with like the dorsum with pale blotches. Juveniles resemble adults in appearance.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Eastern Milksnake
(Lampropeltis triangulum)

This medium sized snake is quite variable across its range, but it is generally tan in color with darker brown or reddish blotches with black edges going down the body. There is usually a pale triangular patch at the base of the snakes heads head and the snakes belly is pale with black blotches. Juveniles resemble adults, but usually have redder patterning on the back.

SC Distribution: Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Black Swamp Snake
(Liodytes pygaea)

This fairly small aquatic snake reaches an average adult size of 10-15 inches (25-38cm). It has shiny black smooth scales above, dark eyes, and a deep red coloration on the belly. The belly scales have some black on the edges. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Glossy Swampsnake
(Liodytes rigida)

Also known as the Glossy Crayfish Snake, this is a medium sized shiny snake with a plain-brown to olive-brown dorsal coloration with faint dark stripes going down the length of the body. The dorsal scales are keeled and the snake has a rough, stiff appearance. The belly scales are pale with two rows of distinct black half moon patterns. This snake averages a size of 14 – 24 inches (36 – 61cm).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Plain-bellied Watersnake
(Nerodia erythrogaster)

A fairly large bodied snake achieving an average adult length between 30 – 48 inches (76 – 122 cm). Adults are plain brown above with keeled scales and a contrasting reddish or yellowish belly coloration. The belly is unmarked.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Southern Watersnake
(Nerodia fasciata)

Often referred to as the Banded Water Snake, this snake is recognized by unbroken brown to reddish cross bands extending down the length of their dark brown body. They have dark markings on the edges of their upper lip (labial) scales and have a dark stripe extending from the back of the eye to the base of the jaw. The belly of this snake is pale with square or triangular reddish blotches on the edges. This is a fairly thick bodied snake with keeled scales. The average adult length is 22 – 40 inches (61- 107 cm).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Florida Green Watersnake
(Nerodia floridana)

Adults are large, heavy bodied snakes and have a uniformly greenish brown dorsum with a pale whitish unmarked belly. This is the largest species of Water Snake in North America and can reach 30 – 55 inches (76 – 140 cm) in length. Females are generally larger than males. Juveniles have a distinct crossbar pattern on their dorsum. All individuals have keeled dorsal scales and subocular scales separating the eye from the upper lip (labial) scales.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains

Northern Watersnake
(Nerodia sipidon)

Adult Northern Watersnakes have keeled scales and are generally tan to dark brown in coloration with deeper brown or reddish square blotches on the back and sides. These blotches appear as full bands towards the front of the body, and become more distinctly separate and alternate towards the back of the body. The belly is pale to pinkish with two or more irregular half moons on each ventral scale. Adults average in size from 24-55 inches (61-140cm) and juveniles are more vibrantly patterned than adults.

SC Distribution: Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Brown Watersnake
(Nerodia taxispilota)

This large snake (30-60 in, 76-152 cm) has keeled scales and is dark brown in coloration. It has alternating dark blotches on the back and sides. The belly is lighter with some mottling. They have narrow heads and eyes are positioned further forward on the head than other snakes.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Rough Greensnake
(Opheodrys aestivus)

A medium sized (24 – 35 inches), very slender snake that is green on the dorsum with a yellow to whitish belly. They possess large eyes and keeled scales. Juveniles closely resemble adults in appearance.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Red Cornsnake
(Pantherophis guttatus)

This medium to large snake (20-48 in, 76-122 cm) almost always has some hints of reddish or orange in its pattern. Their body color can be orange, brown or gray, and they have a series of orange, reddish or brown square blotches outlined in black going down their back. The sides have alternating smaller blotches. The top of the head has a spear shaped blotch with the tip of the point meeting between, or just behind the eyes. The belly is pale to white in color with dark marking resembling a nearly-checkered pattern.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Eastern Ratsnake
(Pantherophis alleghaniensis)

The Eastern Ratsnake has one of the most drastic variation in color and pattern across its geographic range of any snake. Adult individuals found in the north and west tend to have an all black dorsum, while coastal and southern populations are green or yellow in coloration with four black stripes extending down the entire body. In between these two populations individuals express an integrate between the two morphs. The juveniles generally are light gray in color with dark blotches going down the back.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Eastern Pine Snake
(Pituophis melanoleucus)

This large stout snake is white, light gray, or tan in coloration with a series or dark blotches extending down most of the body. These blotches are typically darker near the head, and fainter on the tail end. The adult size of this snake is generally between 50 – 60 inches (127 – 152 cm), but can be up to 90 inches long (228 cm) They have a relatively small head with four prefrontal scales (scales on the top of the head in front of the eyes and behind internasal scales). 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Queensnake
(Regina septemvittata)

A medium sized aquatic snake, brownish to olive green in coloration, with a yellow stripe situated on the either side of the lower body, and three faint narrow dark stripes running down the back. The snake is ridged in appearance with keeled scales. The belly is pale yellowish with four brown stripes extending down the length of the body. Two thinner stripes in the center of the belly, and two bolder stripes towards the outside of the ventral scales.

SC Distribution: Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Pine Woods Littersnake
(Rhadinaea flavilata)

This is a small slender snake has scales that are smooth and the dorsal coloration varies from a golden brown to a light reddish brown, while the ventral scales are a paler brown. The top of the head is a darker than the body and a key identifier of this snake is the dark strip on the face passing through the eye. This snake is also known as the “Yellow-lipped snake”, named after the pale to yellowish lip (labial) scales– though there is significant variation in this trait across its range.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Dekay’s Brownsnake
(Storeria dekayi)

This small gray, tan, or brown snake is usually under 20 inches (51 cm) in length when full grown. The top of the head is darker than the ground color of the body and dark streaks on either side of the head. Most individuals have two rows of dark spots going down the length of the body. The belly is pale with some dark speckling.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Red-bellied Snake
(Storeria occipitomaculata)

This small woodland snake has an average length of under 10 inches (25 cm). Its dorsal coloration and pattern can be rather variable with colors ranging light brown to dark gray. The head is often darker in color than the body and many individuals have a faint light brown ring, or light brown spots, just behind the head. Some individuals are plain, while others may have faint lines or blotches extending down the length of the body. The key identifying feature of this snake is the unmarked orange to red belly.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Southeastern Crowned Snake
(Tantilla coronata)

The Southeastern Crowned Snake is a small slender snake that usually measures under a foot in length. They have a uniformly tan or light brown body with a darker brown head and neck. Just behind the head there is a pale ring that separates the dark color on the head from the neck. The belly is yellow to white and patterned.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Eastern Ribbonsnake
(Thamnophis saurita)

A small to medium sized slender snake with keeled scales and three bright stripes extending down the length of the dark brown to black dorsum. The two lateral stripes of this snake are confined to rows three and four of the dorsal scales. On the head, the Eastern Ribbon Snake has pale un-patterned lips and a white or yellowish spot just in front of the eyes. The typical adult size is between 18 – 26 inches (46 – 66 cm) and females are generally larger than males. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont

Common Gartersnake
(Thamnophis sirtalis)

A medium sized snake that is extremely variable in appearance. It typically has three pale yellowish stripes extending down the length of the dorsum. However, these stripes can be conspicuous to nonexistent in some individuals, and can range in color from yellow to brown to blueish green. The Dorsal ground color is dark, but can also range in color from black to olive green. The dorsum may have a series of dark spots and in some variations these spots may be more prominent than the dorsal stripes.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Smooth Earthsnake
(Virginia valeriae)

This small and slender brown or grayish snake has smooth scales, an unmarked light brown to pale belly, and a small head. Many individuals may have light black flecks on the back and sides. Adults average in size from 7-10 inches (18-25cm).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Elapidae - Coral Snakes

Eastern Coralsnake
(Micrurus fulvius)

Venomous
This highly venomous snake is certainly one of the most vibrant and colorful snakes in the Southeastern United States. They are decorated with red, yellow and black bands going down their body. The red bands throughout most of the body are usually bordered by yellow bands. The front of the head is black with a yellow band crossing just behind the eye.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Viperidae - Vipers

Copperhead
(Agkistrodon contortrix)

Venomous
Like many viperids, copperheads are fairly heavy bodied snake. They range in hue from tan to dark brown with darker brown hourglass shaped bands going down the length of the body. Their large ‘Triangular’ shaped copper-colored head gives them their common name. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but have a vibrant yellow tail.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Cottonmouth
(Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Venomous
Cottonmouths, also known as ‘water moccasins’, are venomous heavy bodied snakes. They achieve lengths of 24-48 inches (61-122 cm) and have keeled scales. Older adults are usually solid brown to almost black in appearance. Younger snakes show significantly more patterning with alternating dark brown and light brown cross bands going down the body, and a uniformly dark tail.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
(Crotalus adamanteus)

Venomous
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America. Adults are heavy bodied and can reach lengths of over six feet (72in, 183cm). They are tan to light brown in color and are patterned with a series of dark diamonds outlined in lighter scales going down the back of the snake.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills

Timber Rattlesnake
(Crotalus horridus)

Venomous
The Timber Rattlesnake, also known as a Canebrake Rattlesnake in some coastal potions of its range, is a large bodied pit viper with an average adult size of 30-60 inches (76-152 cm). hroughout its range this snake has been observed in a variety of color tones. Most commonly, this snake is yellowish-brown to gray with black chevrons segmenting their way down the dorsal side of the body.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Pygmy Rattlesnake
(Sistrurus miliarius)

Venomous
As its name suggests, this venomous rattlesnake is small in size. Adults average between 14-22 inches (38-56cm). They have keeled scales, a stout gray, tan or pinkish body, and irregular shaped dark blotches going down the back. They usually have a reddish or orange stripe going down the spine of the back. The tail is yellowish and ends in a small rattle.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont