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9 Species Black Snakes in New York (Pictures)

New York is a state in the Northeastern part of the United States. The state may be well-known for its impressive architecture, but it’s also home to a diverse population of snakes. You might have seen some black snakes in New York and are now wondering what kind of species they are.

Don’t worry, this article will show you some of the most common snakes in this state that have black coloration. We’ll also give you some information to help you identify them.

Collage photo black snakes in New York

9 Black snakes in New York

1. Northern redbelly snake

Northern redbelly snake
Northern redbelly snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata
  • Length: 7 to 14 inches
  • Venomous: No

The Northern redbelly snakes are the smallest snake species in New York and can be found in upland grasslands, forests with deciduous or coniferous trees, and other places with similar habitats. They’re widespread across the state but can be difficult to spot because they spend most of their time hidden under rocks and logs, where these animals hunt for invertebrates like worms and slugs.

These small reptiles can be any shade of brown, gray, or black and have three light spots on the backs of their necks. Northern redbelly snakes also get their name from the reddish color of their bellies.

2. Common garter snake

Common garter snake
Common garter snake | image by Greg Schechter via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis 
  • Length: 16 to 30 inches
  • Venomous: No

If you are in the state of New York and you come across a snake that’s mostly black but has some yellow stripes on it, you have most likely come across a garter snake. This particular species is the most commonly encountered snake in the state and can even be found in lawns, fields, and the edges of woodland.

Common garter snakes could have a coloration that ranges from dark green to almost black, and they have three yellowish stripes that run down their backs and sides.

This species has a strong preference for living in areas that are rich in both water and vegetation. In these environments, they’re able to hunt for a wide variety of prey, including slugs, insects, and worms.

3. Timber rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus
  • Length: 36 to 48 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

New York is one of many places in North America where you might encounter timber rattlesnakes. These snakes are stocky in appearance and come in a wide variety of colors, from all-black to black, with yellowish bands.

Timber rattlesnakes populate the Hudson Valley, the Southern Tier, and a few parts of Central New York and the Capital District. Timber rattlesnakes prefer to live in areas with mountainous or hilly woodlands, rocky outcrops, steep ledges, and talus slides.

Although their venom can kill a human, attacks from this species are rare. When these rattlesnakes feel threatened, they shake and rattle their tails and only attack when they have to.

4. Eastern ribbon snake 

Eastern ribbon snake
Eastern ribbon snake | image by John J. Mosesso via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus 
  • Length: 18 to 40 inches
  • Venomous: No

Eastern ribbon snakes are medium-sized reptiles that are found all over the state. Even though they’re not as common as garter snakes, they can be found in a variety of habitats across the state.

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Ribbon snakes resemble garter snakes in that they have a dark background (usually dark brown or black) and three yellow stripes, but ribbon snakes are much more slender and have much longer tails. They eat frogs, salamanders, and other small invertebrates and can be found in a wide range of habitats close to water.

5. Eastern hognose snake

Eastern hognose snake basking
Eastern hognose snake basking
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Length: 20 to 45 inches
  • Venomous: No

The Eastern hognose snakes are stocky reptiles that can be entirely black or covered in blotches of brown and yellow. Their range extends from the Capital District all the way down to Long Island, and they prefer to live in sandy environments. These species are named after the upright snouts that they use to burrow in the sand.

They also have a number of different ways to defend themselves from predators, such as widening their necks to imitate a cobra or playing dead when their predators corner them.

6. 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: 10 to 16 inches
  • Venomous: No

The Northern ring-necked snake is a species of snake that you can find all over the state. This species is characterized by its small size and thin body.

They inhabit rocky, wooded areas or the edges of forests, most of which can be found from Western New York down to Long Island. These reptiles have a bluish-black body coloration, a bright yellow belly, and a yellow collar on their necks, which is where their names came from.

They’re a secretive species that like to hide under rocks and other debris. Northern ring-necked snakes eat small frogs, insects, slugs, and other small snakes.

7. Black rat snake

black rat snake
credit: Shenandoah National Park
  • Scientific Name: Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta
  • Length: 34 to 72 inches
  • Venomous: No

The black rat snake, which can reach a maximum length of 6 feet, is the longest snake in New York. They have a completely dark black color, and the spaces between their scales have a whitish color that gives them a shiny appearance.

Though they’re more commonly associated with the woods, black rat snakes can also be found in cities, particularly in abandoned buildings and farms, where they hunt for rodents.

Black rat snakes can easily climb trees and into attics, and some people find them useful because they control rodent populations in farmyards.

8. Eastern racer

North american racer
North american racer | image by arthur-windsor via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor 
  • Length: 34 to 72 inches
  • Venomous: No

Eastern racers are a type of reptile that can be found from the Hudson Valley to Long Island and some parts of New York. Large in size, with a glossy black body, white chin and throat, these snakes can move at incredible speeds.

They inhabit places like open woodlands, shrubby grasslands, old fields, and the outskirts of wetland areas. Insects, frogs, nesting birds, and their eggs make up most of their diet, and they’ll even climb trees to find them.

9. Eastern Massasauga

Eastern massasauga
Eastern massasauga | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Sistrurus catenatus catenatus
  • Length: 18 to 40 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

The eastern massasauga is the smallest venomous snake that lives in the wetlands of New York. This species is extremely rare in New York, with only a small number of them residing in Central New York and the Finger Lakes.

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Although they spend the winter in wetter habitats like marshes, bogs, and swamps, they’ll move to drier environments like abandoned farmlands and woodlands in the summer to hunt for rodents. The eastern massasauga has a grayish to light brown body with black spots on its back. These reptiles also have a rattle on the end of their tails that they use to scare off predators when they feel threatened.

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About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.