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21 Snakes Found in Virginia

Ashley Bates

Virginia is home to several different snake species. The state has swamps, forests, grasslands, and many other highly advantageous environments for these serpents. There are venomous snakes, water snakes, terrestrial snakes, arboreal snakes, and nocturnal snakes galore.

Let’s explore 21 snakes that inhabit the state and learn how to identify them by these photos, too.

new snake divider21 Snakes Found in Virginia:

1. Eastern Copperhead

southern copperhead snake
Image Credit: Piqsels
Species: Agkistrodon contortrix
Longevity: 18 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 24-36 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The eastern copperhead is a pit viper that is native to North America. They are one of the three venomous snakes in Virginia. However, they generally can’t kill a full-sized healthy adult—although immediate medical treatment is necessary.

Despite being venomous, they are timid and do not seek out trouble. These nonaggressive snakes will keep to themselves as much as they can without interfering.

You can recognize this snake due to its distinctive hourglass pattern, pointed head, and brown crossbands. They tend to be off by themselves under piles of debris or rocks, and they can emit a foul-smelling musk from their glands rather than biting. Some say it smells like cucumbers.


2. Northern Cottonmouth

Northern Cottonmouth side view_Matt Jeppson_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Matt Jeppson, Shutterstock
Species: Agkistrodon piscivorus
Longevity: 9 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 30-48 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

Northern cottonmouths are another of Virginia’s venomous snakes. Several different species mimic the look of the cottonmouth. However, their body is usually black with little to no pattern. If you see a similar snake, your best bet is to steer clear, even if they are harmless.

Even though the northern cottonmouth gets a bad rap, these snakes do not actually chase after people. They tend to be nonaggressive, biting only out of necessity—not out of choice. However, they are unlikely to move when you approach them. They simply flatten their bodies and vibrate to warn you away.

Cottonmouths inhabit swamps, rocky creeks, and river sloughs. Unlike the copperhead, the bite from a cottonmouth can be lethal. If you were ever bitten by one, immediate medical attention might be the factor between life and death.


3. Timber Rattlesnake

venomous timber rattlesnake coiled to strike
Image Credit: Mark_Kostich, Shutterstock
Species: Crotalus horridus
Longevity: 10-20 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: No
Adult size: 30-60 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The timber rattlesnake, like other rattlesnake species, has a maraca-like tail. The snakes lack a distinctive shape in their patterns, appearing as dark bands running along the backside. Even though it can be hard to identify by appearance, the sound they make is recognizable.

You can find timber rattlesnakes in both upland and lowland habitats. They tend to gravitate towards rocky areas, flatlands, and hardwood forests. Since they can get so large, they feed on small mammals such as chipmunks, squirrels, frogs, and even birds.

These snakes typically have a rough scale structure and pointed heads. If you suspect it might be a rattlesnake, you need to back away as quickly as possible, as they are incredibly venomous and can have dire consequences for anyone bitten.


4. Eastern Worm Snake

Worm Snake
Image Credit: 2968288, Pixabay
Species: Carphophis amoenus amoenus
Longevity: 4 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 7.5-11 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The eastern worm snake has a name that comes as no surprise, mimicking the earthworm—only to eat them. This species is completely harmless, and they don’t have the jaw strength to bite people.

If you pick one up, they will be wiggly and try to get away from you, but they are otherwise docile. These snakes are not incredibly common, nor are they easily spotted due to their small size and neutral color.

Rather than snacking on rodents, they actually eat a diet of only earthworms. They are much more of a victim of prey, being eaten by larger mammals such as other snakes, birds, and small forest creatures.


5. Northern Scarlet Snake

scarlet kingsnake
Image Credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock
Species: Cemophora coccinea copei
Longevity: 20-30 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 14-20 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

You might be fooled by the northern scarlet snake’s intimidating appearance. They are very brightly colored with bands of bright red to yellow, black, and cream. However, these tri-colored snakes are utterly harmless to people.

You can find scarlet snakes in mountainous regions of the state and having dry sandy soils. These snakes are terrestrial burrowers—you can seek them out under rocks, logs, leaf piles, and other debris.

The snakes share the look of the very venomous coral snake. However, the general rule here is that they are totally harmless because the yellow bands do not touch the red bands. These attractive little reptiles primarily feed on eggs laid by other reptiles, but they can also eat lizards, snakes, and frogs.


6. Northern Black Racer

Northern black racer snake
Image Credit: Jeff Holcombe, Shutterstock
Species: Coluber constrictor constrictor
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 36-60 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The northern black racer has beautiful shiny black scales with lean, long bodies. Though the snakes are non-venomous and harmless to humans, they are very aggressive little snakes and wish not to be handled.

When possible, the black racer will avoid confrontation by freezing if they think predators are afoot. However, they will not hesitate to bite if they feel their lives are at stake. The snakes are incredibly fast and can slither away at incredible speeds.

Depending on their life stage, the snakes eat various goodies such as insects, lizards, birds, rodents, and amphibians. You can find them in oil fields, sandpits, and grasslands throughout Virginia.


7. Ring-Necked Snake (Northern & Southern)

Ring-necked snake
Image Credit: Heptinstall, Shutterstock
Species: Diadophis punctatus edwardsii
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 10-15 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The ring-necked snake gets its name honestly. They come in a variety of beautiful colors, maintaining the same basic shade all down the backside. But they have a very recognizable ring around the neck that matches the undertones on the belly.

Ring-necked snakes are completely harmless, and you can find them throughout much of the United States and Mexico. These snakes are timid and secretive, living a nocturnal life. It’s very rare that you’d encounter one due to its small size and lack of activity during daylight hours.

Generally, these snakes feed on other juvenile snakes, salamanders, earthworms, and slugs. They can come out and just about anywhere, but they much prefer heavily wooded areas and wetlands.


8. Eastern Mud Snake

Eastern Mud Snake_Nathan A. Shepard_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nathan A. Shepard, Shutterstock
Species: Farancia abacura abacura
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 40-54 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

The eastern mud snake is a shiny black scaled snake with red or pink patterns. They are gorgeous, touting very bold, vibrant coloring—and are completely harmless and nonaggressive.

You are unlikely to spot one of these beautiful snakes in the wild as they are borrowers that live in secret alongside canals, swamps, and wetlands.

They love mud bottom creeks and spend most of their time next to aquatics education. They eat aquatic animals such as amphibians, earthworms, and even small fish.


9. Common Rainbow Snake

Common Rainbow Snake side view_Maurilo Mazzo_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Maurilo Mazzo, Shutterstock
Species: Farancia erytrogramma erytrogramma
Longevity: Unknown
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 27-48 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

Common rainbow snakes get their name due to their bodies’ iridescent, brightly colored cosmic patterns. Their skills are generally smooth, and their coloring is in lines down their body.

These guys are highly aquatic water snakes in Virginia, inhabiting creeks, swamps, marshes, and mud beds. Even though they are primarily aquatic, they can survive on land. However, it is unlikely to see one unless you are near some water source.

These snakes are nonaggressive. If approached, they remain perfectly still to throw off any predators that might be lurking. If they are handled, they might release a foul-smelling musk from the glandular base of the tail. The snakes are entirely nocturnal and feed on tadpoles and earthworms.


10. Rough Earth Snake

Rough Earth Snake_Matt Jeppson_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Matt Jeppson, Shutterstock
Species: Haldea striatula
Longevity: 7.2 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 7-10 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The rough earth snake is a tiny snake with bumpy scales. They are usually neutral in color but do range from pale brown to a reddish tone. You can find these snakes hiding in wooded areas beneath logs and other forest debris.

Due to the small size, they mostly snack on earthworms as a base for their diet. They are pretty uncommon, so it is unlikely that you would run into one of these small snakes in the wild.

They do not bite out of aggression, so they might wiggle to escape the clutches of a perceived predator.


11. Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake_Ryan M. Bolton_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ryan M. Bolton, Shutterstock
Species: Heterodon platirhinos
Longevity: 12 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 20-33 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

The eastern hognose snake, otherwise called a puff adder, is a thick body snake that has an upturned snout. Its colors are variable, but they have a very distinct appearance.

When threatened, they love to pretend like they are bigger than they are, using the tactic of a cobra to expand their skin around the head and neck when threatened. They might even lash out, pretending to strike.

You can find hognose snakes next to roadsides or in woodlands. They eat a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, salamanders, invertebrates, and other small mammals.


12. Northern Mole Kingsnake

Northern Mole Kingsnake
Image Credit: Krumpelman Photography, Shutterstock
Species: Lampropeltis rhombomaculata
Longevity: 12 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 30-40 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The mole kingsnake is a sexually dimorphic Virginian snake that maintains dark brown to yellowish tint of color. They can be found in underground areas in agriculture fields, pinewoods, and dense forests.

You can also find them in urban areas occasionally, though this is rare. These snakes might also cross the road after heavy rainfall. They love to burrow in loamy soils, and they use rodent burrows and tree roots to create passageways underground.

These snakes eat a diet of small mammals, birds, and reptiles.


13. Eastern Milk Snake

Eastern Milk Snake
Image Credit: Gerald A. DeBoer, Shutterstock
Species: Lampropeltis Triangulum
Longevity: 20 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 24-36 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The eastern milk snake is a non-venomous reptile that is incredibly secretive and keeps to itself. These quiet snakes can be found under logs, rocks, and other debris, as they are borrowers that spend all of their time beneath the ground.

Finding one in nature would require picking up random life that had been sitting there for quite some time. They do not like being out in the open for any reason.

These snakes consume mammals such as shrews, mice, and voles. Sometimes they even snack on smaller birds for sustenance.


14. Eastern Glossy Swamp Snake

Species: Liodytes rigida rigida
Longevity: Unknown
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 14-24 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The glossy swamp snake is a large-eyed, small-bodied slender reptile that is polished brown to olive in color. The snake is completely harmless, not capable of inflicting pain if ever you were to be bitten.

The snakes are highly aquatic, living next to slow-moving waterways, inhabiting creek beds and other muddy surfaces. You might also find them in crayfish burrows or crossing roads after heavy rain.

These small snakes are very speedy, slipping away at a moment’s notice if they feel threatened. They can also release a foul-smelling musk from the base of their tail. These nocturnal snakes primarily feed on crayfish, small fish, and salamanders.


15. Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake_ Jay Ondreicka_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock
Species: Nerodia sipdeon sipdeon
Longevity: 9 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 22-42 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The northern water snake, or common water snake, is a huge non-venomous water snake in Virginia. Often people mistake the snake due to its color and pattern for a cottonmouth. However, the snakes are entirely harmless to humans and pets.

One really unique thing about the species is that they are livebearers, meaning they give birth to live babies snakes rather than laying eggs. You can find them in lakes, rivers, creeks, and ponds.

These snakes feast on fish and invertebrates, swallowing the prey alive without restriction. Even though they are not venomous, they can still bite if they feel threatened. The northern water snake is considered an aggressive species and will assert dominance if they are handled.


16. Green Snake (Rough & Smooth)

Rough Green Snake
Image Credit: Jason Patrick Ross, Shutterstock
Species: Nerodia taxispilota                       
Longevity: 15 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 30-60 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

The green snake comes in two variations: rough and smooth. The difference is that the smooth green snake is completely smooth-scaled, while their rough cousins have a much more abrasive texture. Also, rough green snakes grow up to a foot longer than their smaller smooth scaled friends.

Both types of green snakes are completely non-venomous and non-threatening. They love hanging out in higher elevations and have it open for us. You might also find them alongside wetlands and rivers, seeking out the insects near vegetation.

These green snakes are considered arboreal snakes, meaning they spend much of their time in trees. If you encounter a green snake, they often freeze to blend in with their green environment.


17. Red Corn Snake

red corn snake
Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock
Species: Opheodrys aestivus aestivus
Longevity: 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?:     Yes
Adult size: 30-48 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The bright colors of the red corn snake can be intimidating if you’re not sure what kind of snake you’re dealing with. The red corn snake is an entirely harmless, ultra-beneficial snake to have around.

They often take care of common pests that you might find around your home. These snakes usually never bite if they feel threatened. Instead, they flee or remain completely still to avoid being seen.

However, if they’re extremely scared, they might start rapidly vibrating their tail to ward off whatever is around them. They only bite as a last resort. Corn snakes often feed on common rodents, birds, and bird eggs.


18. Northern Pine Snake

Northern Pine Snake close up_Jay Ondreicka_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock
Species: Pituophis melanoleucus
Longevity: 20 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 6 feet
Diet: Carnivorous

The Northern pine snake is an attractive silvery black color. They are one of the largest snake species, measuring up to 6 feet in length. Northern pine snakes are entirely non-venomous, but their size can make them intimidating.

Northern pine snakes are a burrowing species that spend most of their time underground. So, even though they are very sizable, the likelihood of you seeing them is next to none.

Snakes typically eat rodents and other small mammals. But they are also known to eat birds along with eggs. As juveniles, they might gravitate more towards lizards and insects. They are constrictors, meaning that they squeeze their prey before consuming it.


19. Queensnake

Queensnake side view_ Lev Frid_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lev Frid, Shutterstock
Species: Regina septemvittata
Longevity: 15 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 24 inches
Diet:     Carnivorous

Queensnakes are neutral-colored brown and tan snakes with stripes running horizontally along the body. The snakes are non-venomous and nonaggressive. However, they may bite if they are handled.

But the queensnake is not as secretive as some water snakes. They don’t mind basking next to streams and rivers, so it would be quite easy to spot one enjoying a nice sunbath on a rock.

Typically, queensnakes eat newly molted crayfish as a primary food source of their diet. Hard crayfish are too difficult for them to digest.


20. Dekay’s Brownsnake

Dekay's Brownsnake_Frode Jacobsen_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Frode Jacobsen, Shutterstock
Species: Storeria dekayi
Longevity: 7 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 9-15 inches
Diet: Carnivorous
Contrary to its name, the Dekay’s brownsnake is a non-venomous version of the very lethal Australian brown snake. As the name implies, these snakes are lightly patterned and have different shades of brown colors.

You can usually find one of these brown snakes in meadows, woodlands, and somewhat rural and even residential areas. They typically spend their time out of sight, dwelling beneath rocks, logs, and other debris.

These brown snakes feed on snails, slugs, salamanders, grubs, and earthworms. Another really cool fact about this snake is that they have teeth and jaw power strong enough to suck snails from their shells for a snack.


21. Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake on the ground
Image Credit: PublicDomainImages, Pixabay
Species: Thamnophis sirtalis
Longevity: 4 years
Good to own as a pet?: No
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 18-26 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The eastern garter snake is the official snake of Virginia. So, you could say that is the single-handed most important snake on the list. These snakes are completely harmless, and you can find them just about anywhere.

They inhabit areas close to humans as well as those even forests. These terrestrial snakes love to hang out in pine forests, abandoned fields, next to creeks and other bodies of water, and also urban areas.

The eastern garter snake eats a diet of earthworms, spiders, insects, and even small fish or toads. They love plentiful areas such as your backyard garden. The snakes are easy to handle, although they may bite when they feel threatened—as they are slightly aggressive.

new snake dividerConclusion

As you can see, Virginia is home to some exciting snake species. You might spend your whole life in the state and never see half of the snakes on this list. Most snakes are incredibly camouflage, hiding in places you never notice.

Which of these incredible reptiles did you find to be the most fascinating of all?


Featured Image Credit: joolsthegreat, Pixabay

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.