Connecticut is home to 14 species of snakes and only two are venomous. The state’s Energy and Environmental Protection Department wants to remind residents:
Hundreds of snakes are needlessly killed by people each year because of mistaken identity, fear, and misunderstanding. Very often, when a snake is found near a home, people panic and may even assume that the snake is dangerous or venomous. Few Connecticut residents realize that they are unlikely to encounter a venomous snake around their home. The two venomous snake species found in Connecticut (timber rattlesnake and copperhead) do not have wide distributions.
This presentation starts with the two venomous species and then provides pictures and information covering the remaining species.
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The name Pit Vipers applies to the three kinds of venomous snakes in the United States, rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. Connecticut hosts two of the species, copperhead snakes and rattlesnakes.
The Copperhead snake inhabits the hillsides, meadows swamps and ponds along the southern areas of the state and parts of the central state. The grow between two to three feet in length and their light body is covered with darker crossbands. The head shows a characteristic copper color.
Connecticut also hosts the most wide ranging rattlesnake species, the Timber Rattlesnake. It’s population, situated in the northwest corner of the state, is listed as endangered.
Racers and Whipsnakes
Racers and Whipsnakes share both physical and behavioral characteristics. Most if not all species tend to be comparatively thin and very fast moving snakes. When spotted in the wild, their first inclination is to flee.
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States. Actually eleven subspecies have been recorded and color is a common name applied to many of the subspecies. 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, including Connecticut. They are long, thin snakes with a black body, and as the picture highlights, white chins.
Eastern Hognose snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) can assume a variety of colors and are the most wide ranging of species.
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes
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.
About eight subspecies of Milk Snakes are described in the United States. Many have geographic common names such as the Utah Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori) and the Central Plains Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis).
Connecticut hosts one of the nine waternake species (genus Nerodia), the Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon).
It’s the species with the widest range, found in all states east of the Rocky Mountains. 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 are the general name given to a group of constrictors that inhabit various regions of the East and Midwest. 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.
While many of the species have common names with rat snake included, other species are known as Corn Snakes and Fox Snakes. Their large size and fairly docile manner means there’s always talk about them in the reptile trade. Probably the corn snake is the most common of the species in the pet trade.
The Black Rat Snake ranks as the most wide ranging of the species. The all black body means it can often be confused with the Black Racers. Usually Blace Rat Snakes have spots on the otherwise light colored belly.
Ribbon snakes refers to a group of snakes in the genus Thamnophis, differentiated by the presence of longer tails and a light patch in front of the eye. Eastern Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) share those same physical features.
The Eastern Ribbon Snake has a distinct pattern on the body as well as the common stripes.
Garter snake identification can be a fun activity because they are not aggressive snakes and taking the time to look at one means little personal harm to the observer. Their body color can range from blue, prominent in Florida blue garter snakes, to the many shades of red visible in West Coast species.
The Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis) in the picture is a rather bland looking species and easy to identify basically because it’s the primary species in most East Coast states. It’s also the most wide ranging of all the garter snakes and found in almost all of the lower 48 states.
Still More Colibrid Snakes
The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) in the second picture 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.
The eastern half of the United States hosts three Storeria species:
- Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
- Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
- Florida Brownsnake (Storeria victa)
All three grow small, 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. Whereas most people on the West Coast consider the Garter Snakes as your basic garden snake, many people in the East, especially residential urban areas, think the Brownsnake as a common garden snake.
Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus) is a very small and thin snake that inhabits forested areas in most parts of the Eastern United States.
Connecticut snakes also include the Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis).