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10 Types of Black Snakes Found in Illinois

If you plan to go on an adventure throughout Illinois, you may be curious about the wild snakes that inhabit the area. The state of Illinois is home to forty different species of snakes, but only four of those snakes are venomous. You might also be surprised to learn that there are black snakes in Illinois that you may encounter in the wild.

Today, we’re going to look at some of the black snakes you can see in Illinois and learn more about them.

Black snakes in Illinois

10 Black snakes in Illinois

1. Western worm snake

Western wormsnake
Western worm snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Carphophis vermis
  • Length: 7.5 to 11 inches
  • Venomous: No

The western worm snake is a small, slender, nonvenomous snake that‘s prevalent throughout Illinois. Adults of this species of snake only grow to be about 7 to 11 inches long. This animal is bicolored, with a salmon pink underbelly and a dark brown or black upper body.

The western worm snake prefers to eat earthworms, but it’ll also eat ants and larvae if they’re available. They only come out at night to hunt, spending the day hiding in shady spots or under logs.

2. Southern black racer

Southern black racer
Southern black racer | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor priapus
  • Length: 20 to 56 inches
  • Venomous: No

The southern black racer is a type of black racer that you can find in Illinois. This snake usually gets between 20 and 56 inches long, but the longest one on record was 72 inches long. The chin of a southern black racer is white, which makes it easy to tell it apart from other black snakes.

It’s a very active snake that spends most of its time looking for food in open areas like forests or grasslands, especially when the weather is warm. It hunts mice, lizards, frogs, and birds, among other small animals.

This type of snake doesn’t have venom. Instead, it uses its strong jaws to grab its prey and hold it down until it dies from suffocation due to constriction.

3. Timber rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus
  • Length: 30 to 60 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

The state of Illinois is home to four different species of venomous snakes, one of which is the timber rattlesnake. This reptile, also known as the American viper, is regarded as one of the deadliest snakes found in the United States.

It can be brown, yellow, or even black, and all of them have distinctive black tails and banding patterns on their backs. They used to be common throughout Illinois, but due to human activity such as hunting and clearing of forests, they’re now confined to the Shawnee Hills region.

4. Northern ringneck snake

Northern ringneck snake on the ground
Northern ringneck snake on the ground | image by Cody Hough via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Scientific Name: Diadophis punctatus edwardsii
  • Length: 9 to 15 inches
  • Venomous: No
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The northern ringneck snake is a subspecies of the ringneck snake that’s typically located in the southeastern part of the state of Illinois. They have a body color ranging from bluish-gray to black, and each has a distinct yellow or orange ring around their necks. They typically consume small prey and can be found in open forests, hill prairies, and bluffs.

Northern ringneck snakes spend the colder months of the year hibernating, which involves hiding themselves within animal burrows, stone walls, or cellars.

5. Mud snake

Mud snake
Mud snake | image by Bree McGhee via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Farancia abacura 
  • Length: 40 to 54 inches
  • Venomous: No

One type of black snake found in Illinois is the mud snake. They have glossy black backs with red and black undersides, and the reddish color goes all the way past their sides. There are also fully black mud snakes with lighter spots. Mud snakes are reptiles that live in shallow wetlands and marshes. Some have been seen crossing roads on rainy nights.

Mud snakes are harmless to humans because they don’t have any venom. They aren’t aggressive creatures and, if captured, will simply point their tails at humans. However, this behavior isn’t dangerous in any way.

6. Eastern hognose snake

Eastern hognose snake playing dead
Eastern hognose snake playing dead
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Length: 40 to 54 inches
  • Venomous: No

While some eastern hognose snakes are solid black, others are yellow, green, or gray, and the vast majority of these snakes have patterns of darker colors on their backs. The species got its name because of the way its snout is shaped, which is slightly upturned and pointed. Their primary habitats are dry, open woods and forest edges, and they’re most common in areas with large sand deposits.

These reptiles release a foul-smelling musk when they feel threatened, and they’ll roll over on their backs to pretend to be dead.

7.  Eastern garter snake

Eastern garter snake on grass
Eastern garter snake on grass | image by dan_macneal via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
  • Length: 18 to 26 inches
  • Venomous: No

The eastern garter snake is a medium-sized reptile found in many habitats across Illinois, including fields, forests, hillsides, stream edges, marshes, and even abandoned city blocks. They range in length from 18 to 26 inches and have a slender build. The three yellow stripes on a black body give this species its common name, “garter snake,” because of the resemblance it has to stocking garters.

This species is active during the day and hibernates between late October and early April. They’re known for their ability to withstand cold temperatures and can even be spotted basking in the winter sun.

8. Eastern kingsnake

Eastern Kingsnake
Eastern Kingsnake | credit: Greg Gilbert | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula
  • Length: 36 to 48 inches
  • Venomous: No

The eastern kingsnake is a species of snake that can reach a maximum length of 48 inches and is distinguished by its striking black coloring. This species has a solid black coloration all over its body, and it has crossbands that are either cream or yellowish in color. They’re frequently discovered in the Shawnee Hills and along the bluffs that run south of the Mississippi River in Illinois.

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They search for venomous snakes and small mammals to forage for food, and then they use their constriction technique to kill their prey. These species are active at night during the summer, but during the spring and fall, they’re active during the day.

9. Plain-bellied water snake

Yellowbellied water snake
Yellowbellied water snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
  • Length: 24 to 40 inches
  • Venomous: No

Adult plain-bellied water snakes have a solid black coloration, whereas juveniles may be grayish-brown with dark blotches but will eventually darken as they mature. Swamps, lakes, and ponds with muddy bottoms are common habitats for this nonvenomous species.

During the summer months, this medium-sized species is most active, when it hunts for food day and night for fish, crayfish, and other amphibians. They also use constriction to kill their prey after catching it. During the winter months, they go into hibernation, typically underground or in crayfish burrows.

10. Banded water snake

Banded water snake resting
Banded water snake resting
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia fasciata confluens
  • Length: 24 to 42.1 inches
  • Venomous: No

If you found a black snake in a freshwater habitat in Illinois, it might have been a banded water snake. These snakes come in a variety of colors, including brown, red, and black, with dark crossbands.

This snake species is frequently found in aquatic environments such as wetlands, lakes, and streams, where it preys on fish and frogs. Banded water snakes are medium-sized water snakes that can grow up to 42 inches in length, although the longest ever recorded for this species was 62 inches.