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12 Species of Black Snakes in Tennessee (Pictures)

Tennessee is home to a wide variety of animal species due to its abundance of forest, grassland, and wetland habitats. There are 32 different types of snakes present here, but only four of them are venomous: copperheads, cottonmouths, pigmy rattlesnakes, and timber rattlesnakes. In this article though, we’ll be looking at some of the black or partially-black snakes of Tennessee, and learn how to tell them apart from other species.

12 Black snakes in Tennessee

1. Speckled kingsnake

Speckled kingsnake
Speckled kingsnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis holbrooki 
  • Length: 36 to 48 inches
  • Venomous: No

The speckled kingsnake is one of the black snakes you might see in the western and southwestern third of Tennessee. Speckled kingsnakes are fairly large and black, with whitish or yellowish dots all over their bodies, giving them a speckled appearance from which they got their name.

This kingsnake likes to eat a wide range of animals, including venomous snakes. They hunt and kill by constriction, which means they suffocate their prey to death.

2. Orange-striped ribbon snake

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  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis proximus proximus
  • Length: 20 to 30 inches
  • Venomous: No

Orange-striped ribbon snakes are species of reptiles that can be found in the far western part of the state. Like other ribbon snakes, they‘re thin and have a black body with three light stripes on them. However, the stripes on their backs are orange, while the stripes on their sides are yellowish.

These semi-aquatic animals live near water sources like streams, rivers, and wetland areas. When threatened, they’ll just swim in the water to avoid danger.

3. Eastern coachwhip snake

Eastern coachwhip snake
Eastern coachwhip snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Masticophis flagellum flagellum
  • Length: 42 to 60 inches
  • Venomous: No

The eastern coachwhip snake is a kind of black snake that you can find in sandy, open habitats in McNairy and Hardeman counties in Tennessee. It’s a reptile that’s black on the top half and turns brownish on the bottom half.

The majority of an eastern coachwhip’s diet consists of small birds, rodents, and reptiles. They also got their names from the way the scales on their tails look like they’re braided.

4. Pigmy rattlesnake

Pygmy rattlesnake
Pygmy rattlesnake | Image by JUSTIN SMITH from Pixabay
  • Scientific Name: Sistrurus miliarius
  • Length: 15 to 20 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

The western pigmy rattlesnake is the smallest venomous snake you can find in Tennessee. Even though they aren’t seen very often, they can be seen along the western Highland Rim from Stewart County to the state’s southern border. These venomous snakes are mostly gray or tan, with dark spots on their backs and an orange-brown stripe down the middle.

They live in areas close to water, like flood plains, wetlands, and wet fields, but they can also be found in rocky uplands and pine woods.

5. Red-bellied Mudsnake

Mudsnake
Mudsnake | credit: Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Farancia abacura
  • Length: 40 to 54 inches
  • Venomous: No

The red-bellied mudsnake is a heavy-bodied, non-venomous snake that lives in Tennessee. They’re commonly glossy black in color, with a red and black checkered belly and a reddish coloration that extends up their sides.

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In this species, adult males are noticeably smaller than females. Red-bellied mudsnakes are a type of semi-aquatic animal that you can find in muddy, shallow-water environments like rivers and swamps.

Even though these reptiles exist in the state, they’re extremely secretive and rarely observed.

6. Eastern racer

North american racer
North american racer | image by arthur-windsor via Flickr | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor 
  • Length: 36 to 60 inches
  • Venomous: No

Eastern racers are a type of reptile that lives in both the eastern and western parts of the state. They grow to a maximum length of 60 inches and are solid black in color throughout their bodies.

Racers are constrictors, which means that they hunt their prey by squeezing them to death. Because of their diet of insects, amphibians, rodents, and eggs, they can usually be found in abandoned fields, agricultural fields, pastures, and the outskirts of forests.

7. Eastern hognose snake

Eastern hognose snake basking
Eastern hognose snake basking
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Length: 20 to 33 inches
  • Venomous: No

The eastern hognose snake, also referred to as the “hissing viper,” is a stocky reptile species well-known for its defensive behaviors. This reptile’s backs can have a brown, rust, or black rectangular pattern down the middle, and their background can be yellow, orange, gray, brown, or black.

The majority of their habitats are sandy environments where they burrow. For self-defense, they either flatten their heads and hiss like a cobra or roll over to look dead and emit a foul odor, scaring away potential predators.

8. Eastern kingsnake

Eastern kingsnake
Eastern kingsnake | image by Alabama Extension via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula 
  • Length: 36 to 48 inches
  • Venomous: No

You might have seen an eastern kingsnake in Tennessee before, as this species lives all over the state. The eastern kingsnake is a long, black snake with a series of yellow or white crossbands down its length. It lives in habitats close to water or in forests, where it hunts small mammals, birds, frogs, lizards, and venomous snakes for food.

Since they’re immune to venom, they play a crucial role in reducing the number of venomous snakes in the wild.

9. 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 15 inches
  • Venomous: No

The Northern ring-necked snake is a small species found in the eastern part of the state. Their names come from the bright yellow or orange band that often appears around their necks. They grow to a maximum length of about 15 inches and have smooth black or dark gray scales.

These creatures can thrive in various environments, but wet forests are where they’re most commonly observed. Northern ring-necked snakes are secretive and are always found underneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, or debris.

10. Broad-banded water snake

Broad-banded water snake
Broad-banded water snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia fasciata confluens
  • Length: 22 to 36 inches
  • Venomous: No

The broad-banded water snake is a medium-sized snake that can be seen basking on logs on warm, sunny days. They’re aquatic creatures that inhabit bogs, marshes, river sloughs, and shallow lakes. Broad-banded water snakes are also frequently seen in Tennessee, particularly along Reelfoot Lake.

Their typical coloration consists of broad bands of reddish brown or black separated by thinner bands of yellowish to grayish coloration. Because of their similarity to cottonmouths, people often fear these water snakes. However, broad-banded water snakes are nonvenomous and completely harmless.

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11. Timber rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus
  • Length: 36 to 60 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

The longest venomous snake in Tennessee is the timber rattlesnake, which can grow up to 60 inches long. As rattlesnakes, they have a triangular head and a rattle at the end of their tail that they shake to scare away predators. This reptile has a thick build and comes in a wide range of colors, including black, tan, pink, and gray, with black crossbands.

They can be seen coiled near fallen logs or basking on rocks on the hillside of large, mature forests in Tennessee.

12. 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: 18 to 26 inches
  • Venomous: No

One of the most abundant snakes found in the state of Tennessee is the common garter snake. This species lives in a wide range of moist environments, including cities and suburbs close to bodies of water.

You can identify them with their coloration and patterns, having black, brown, or olive bodies with three light stripes that can be white, yellow, blue, brown, or green. These colors and patterns make them look like old-fashioned men’s garters, which is how they got their name.