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15 Snakes Found in Maryland

Genevieve Dugal

Maryland is often called “America in miniature” because of its diverse landscapes, ranging from mountains to the winding Atlantic Coast. This rich diversity also means that Maryland is home to a considerable number of snake species; they are an integral part of the fauna of this small state.

There are nearly 20 species of snakes found in Maryland, two of which are particularly venomous: the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead, both belonging to the viper family (Viperidae). The other species are part of the most prominent family of snakes in the world: Colubridae.

We present to you the 15 most common snake species found in Maryland, including venomous and water species.

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15 Snakes Found in Maryland

1. Timber Rattlesnake

pregnant Timber Rattlesnake
Image Credit: Gerald A. DeBoer, Shutterstock
Species: Crotalus horridus
Longevity: 15 to 20 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 91 – 152 cm
Diet: Carnivorous

The timber rattlesnake is arguably one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Its large venom hooks and the sheer amount of venom it can inject with each bite certainly don’t make it a commendable pet! However, its relatively placid character and its restricted period of activity during the year mean that it is rarely involved in fatal bites on humans. In addition, the composition of its venom varies significantly between different populations, some being mainly neurotoxic, others hemorrhagic (or a combination of both), and finally others having none of these characteristics and considered as not very active.

This snake can be up to 150 cm long and weigh over 3 pounds. It features dark brown or black cross line patterns on a light brown to gray base. The lines have an irregular, zigzag, “M” or “V”-shaped border with a yellowish ventral surface. However, melanistic, entirely black individuals are pretty standard.

This venomous reptile is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Still, it is nonetheless considered “endangered” by several states in America and is even regarded as extinct in Maine and Rhode Island.


2. Eastern Copperhead

Species: Agkistrodon contortrix    
Longevity: 18 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 61 – 90 cm
Diet: Carnivorous

Agkistrodon contortrix, commonly referred to as eastern copperhead, is a species of venomous snakes in the Viperidae family. This reptile mainly feeds on small rodents (mice, voles), which represent 90% of its diet but also consume large insects and frogs. Although primarily terrestrial, it does not hesitate to climb trees to feed on cicadas.

Moreover, although venomous, this species does not seem particularly aggressive, and bites are rare. Symptoms of a bite include very severe pain, tingling, swelling of the affected areas, severe nausea, and respiratory distress. In addition, the venom can damage muscles and bone tissue, especially during a bite to a limb, with less muscle mass capable of absorbing the toxin.

Although, in theory, antivenoms are effective against Agkistrodon contortrix bites, they are generally not used because the risks of allergic complications are greater than the risks of the venom.

Interesting fact: The venom of this snake contains a protein called contortrostatin that appears to stop the growth of cancer cells as well as the migration of tumors. However, it has only been tested in mice so far.


3. Common Water Snake

Common Water Snake
Image Credit: Imageman, Shutterstock
Species: Nerodia sipedon
Longevity: 9 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 61 – 140 cm
Diet: Carnivorous (mostly fish and amphibians)

The common water snake is a species of large, non-venomous common snake in the Colubridae family. It is often confused with the poisonous cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). It is a widespread snake, not just in Maryland, that many people frequently encounter on a nature walk or just right in their backyard. Fearful and harmless, the common water snake frightens many people who have a real phobia for reptiles or confuse it with the viper.

Besides, the common water snake makes a very good pet, mainly due to its harmless nature. Also, it is less demanding than other species of snakes, and a little more special.

*Important note: While it may be legal to own this snake as a pet in other states, Maryland has a strict list of native reptile and amphibian species that cannot be commercially traded. You can view the complete listings on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.


4. Plain-Bellied Water Snake

Species: Nerodia erythrogaster
Longevity: 8 – 15 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 76 – 122 cm
Diet: Carnivorous (mostly fish and small amphibians)

The plain-bellied water snake is a familiar species of predominantly aquatic, non-poisonous snakes. This reptile is a large snake with a thick body and a solid color. The subspecies can be brown, gray, olive green, greenish-gray, and black. Some lighter-colored snakes have dark dorsal spots.

Due to its strong resemblance to the viper, this poor water snake is usually hunted from gardens and ponds or even killed. However, it is advantageous because it actively participates in the fight against rodents on which it feeds.

Thus, any gardener should have a genuine interest in protecting this harmless snake which, moreover, does not bite humans. Indeed, this friendly snake feeds on insects, which avoids watering the plantations with polluting insecticides. It can also eat the vermin that infects gardens and destroys all your good vegetables.

Related Read: 28 Snakes Found in Missouri


5. Queen Snake

Species: Regina septemvittata
Longevity: 10 – 15 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 60 – 90 cm
Diet: Crayfish

Generally seen as devious and aggressive species, most snakes are, in fact, graceful reptiles with pleasant temperaments. Take, for example, the queen snake. This non-venomous aquatic snake shelters in damp and rocky areas where it feeds on crayfish.

It is difficult to find a queen snake, but once spotted, it is easy to distinguish. The four stripes that decorate its yellow belly allow you to recognize it, as it is the only snake in North America that has features that run the length of its body. In addition, its olive-brown flanks also show a characteristic yellow band. As adults, these slender snakes can be 60 to 90 centimeters in length.


6. Smooth Earth Snake

Western Smooth Earthsnake_Dylan Wallace_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dylan Wallace, Shutterstock
Species: Virginia valeriae
Longevity: 6 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 18 – 25 cm
Diet: Earthworms

The smooth earth snake is a species of non-venomous colubrid snake. The scientific name Virginia valeriae was given in honor of Valeria Biddle Blaney, who collected the first specimen in Maryland over 200 years ago.

Due to its lack of defense mechanisms against larger animals, the smooth earth snake is generally not aggressive towards humans. If necessary, you could even move it safely if you find it in a place that could endanger its life (e.g., in the middle of the road). Indeed, although it has hooks, the size of the mouth and teeth make any attack on humans superficial at worst.

In addition, defecation seems to be its defense mechanism of choice when attacked.


7. Mountain Earth Snake

Species: Virginia valeriae pulchra
Longevity: 7 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 25 – 30 cm
Diet: Insects and earthworms

The mountain earth snake is another harmless little snake commonly found in the forests of Maryland. Moreover, its scientific name pulchra is derived from the Latin word pulcher, which means “beautiful”.

Its body, head, and tail are reddish-brown, sometimes dark gray. Adults show small black spots on the back, and a dark line is present in front of the eyes. Unlike the smooth earth snake, the mountain earth snake has 17 rows of scales in the middle of the body, while the previous species has only 15.


8. Dekay’s Brown Snake

Species: Storeria dekayi
Longevity: 7 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 20 – 35 cm
Diet: Slugs, snails, and earthworms

 Storeria dekayi, commonly known as the Dekay’s brown snake, is a small, non-venomous reptile in the Colubridae family.

This tiny snake is brownish, sometimes almost gray. There are two rows of black spots on its back. Also, these spots may be so close together that they form a line. The belly is either pink or pale yellow. Moreover, this species is ovoviviparous and gives birth to about fourteen young.

Besides, this is one of Maryland’s rarest snakes. Be sure to take a picture of it if you ever have the chance to see it on your way!


9. Red-Bellied Snake

Species: Storeria occipitomaculata
Longevity: 4 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 20 – 40 cm
Diet: Omnivorous (mostly invertebrates and plants)

The red-bellied snake is a tiny, non-poisonous reptile, barely 8 inches long. The color of its body is a rather dull brown; its main feature rests on its belly, which is a blazing orange-red. In addition, its neck is adorned with three small bright spots.

This species nests under tree trunks, woodpiles, wooded or open land. Unlike other snakes, this one rarely goes out to bask in the sun. The red-bellied snake feeds almost exclusively on earthworms.

Besides, red-bellied snakes have a venom that helps them neutralize slugs, but they are nonetheless harmless to humans.


10. Common Garter Snake

common garter snake
Image Credit: PublicDomainImages, Pixabay
Species: Thamnophis sirtalis
Longevity: 14 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 55 – 135 cm
Diet: Amphibians

Common garter snakes are typically 60 centimeters long. Although their colors vary widely, they are usually recognized by their dark body with three light stripes on the back and sides (usual shades of yellow, red, or orange). Some individuals are spotted near their light stripes, while some small populations are entirely black and have no stripes.

When a predator such as a human approach, the garter snake’s first instinct is to hide. Backed up to the wall, many snakes will try to intimidate their opponent with a display of anger. It is only if caught that the garter snake will try to bite. It will also release a foul-smelling musky fluid as a defense mechanism. However, the bite of this snake is not dangerous to humans, although it can cause mild itching, burning, and swelling.


11. Eastern Ribbon Snake

Species: Thamnophis sauritus
Longevity: 10 – 15 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 46 – 66 cm
Diet: Amphibians and small insects

The eastern ribbon snake is a species in the same family as the common garter snake. It is also a non-venomous snake of the Colubridae family.

This snake can measure up to 90 cm; however, it is harmless to humans and feeds almost exclusively on insects and small amphibians. In addition, this species hibernates during the long winter months.


12. Common Worm Snake

Species: Carphophis amoenus
Longevity: 4 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 15 – 30 cm
Diet: Earthworms

The common worm snake is one of the smallest snakes found in Maryland. Measuring barely 15 centimeters, this tiny snake can sometimes be mistaken for a large earthworm due to its brown color and underground habitat.

In addition, these snakes are harmless and are also relatively difficult to observe as they burrow up to a foot below the ground’s surface. Common worm snakes are usually found under rocks and rotten logs where their prey, earthworms, and soft-bodied insects, are abundant.


13. Smooth Green Snake

Smooth Green Snake
Image Credit: Kristian Bell, Shutterstock
Species: Opheodrys vernalis
Longevity: 5 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 30 – 50 cm
Diet: Insects

The Smooth green snake is a non-venomous species in the Colubridae family. This snake is also called a grass snake. It is a slender animal, which measures up to 50 centimeters in adulthood.

Its main characteristic is its magnificent color: from a blue-gray to emerald green. The belly is white or light yellow. This oviparous species feeds on insects, especially larvae of moths and spiders. It is mainly found in the leaves of trees and shrubs; besides, it is also rare for it to bite unless provoked.

Related Read: 20 Cute Snakes You Have to See


14. Rainbow Snake

Species: Farancia erytrogramma
Longevity: Unknown
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 168 cm
Diet: Fish and small amphibians

The rainbow snake is sumptuously beautiful, thanks to its multicolored scales. This magnificent representative of reptiles particularly appreciates wetlands and thus favors the proximity of streams, marshes, or lakes. It feeds mainly on fish, eels, and small amphibians.

Despite its fierce colors and large size, the rainbow snake is mostly defenseless. It is not aggressive towards humans and does not tend to bite, nor capable of injuring a predator with its tail.


15. Scarlet Snake​

Species: Cemophora coccinea
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 35 – 50 cm
Diet: Eggs of other reptiles

Cemophora coccinea, commonly known as scarlet snake, is the last species on our list in the Colubridae family. This bright red snake mimics the color and pattern of the poisonous Eastern Coral snake. The scarlet snake, on the other hand, is non-poisonous and has black separating the narrow yellow (sometimes white) spots from the large red spots. In addition, its belly is a solid white-yellow.

If threatened, the scarlet snake emits an obnoxious musk and wags its tail, much like a rattlesnake. They are also known to bite, although their bite is not toxic to humans.

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Conclusion

As you can see, Maryland is blessed with various snake species, each more colorful than the next. Although two species may be dangerous to humans, it is relatively rare that they attack without warning, unless they are provoked. So, on your next visit to Maryland, bring your camera and try to find a few species listed in this article!


Featured Image Credit: sandid, Pixabay

Genevieve Dugal

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.