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9 Non-Venomous Snakes in North Carolina

Striking fear in the hearts of many, snakes are found in most parts of the world. Despite their scary appearance, most of these slithering creatures pose no threat to humans. In fact, the non-venomous snakes in North Carolina are actually beneficial to humans since they help control the rodent population.

9 Non-Venomous Snakes in North Carolina

There are 31 non-venomous snakes in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, as well as 6 venomous species. Since snakes are so prevalent in the state, it’s only a matter of time before you encounter one.

Knowing which of the non-venomous snakes in North Carolina, you are more likely to see will help you better identify which reptiles are safe and which ones you should stir clear of.

1. Corn Snake

Corn snake 
Corn snake | image by via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Pantherophis guttatus

The Corn snakes measure about 3 feet long, but can grow up to 6 feet in length. They are strong constrictors who feed on mice and various other rodents, but they may also consume birds, tree frogs, and lizards.

Corn snakes are easily reconfigured by their red blotchy square-like pattern on their brown, gray, or orange skin. They have a similar pattern running along their sides, though with smaller blotches.

Corn snakes are most active after the sun goes down during the warmer months in North Carolina. They are most commonly found near the edges of fields and clearings, preferring to hide under logs, tin, old boards, and dead trees.

2. Brown Snake

Dekay's brown snake
Dekay’s brown snake | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Scientific Name: Storeria dekayi

As their name would suggest, brown snakes are typically light brown, but can also have reddish brown or gray skin. The stripes running down its back are pale, and there are small spots on both of its sides. It can reach lengths of up to 20-inches, and has rough scales covering its body.

The brown snake is often found under logs, rocks, and trash throughout the forest and vacant lots of North Carolina. It is a common sight in flower beds where it consumes earthworms, snails, and slugs.

3. Common Garter Snake

Common garter snake
Common garter snake | image by Greg Schechter via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis

The common garter snake can reach lengths of up to 4 feet long, but has an average length of less than 2 feet. The color pattern of the garter snake can vary, but it is easily identified by the white or yellow strip that is running right down the middle of the snake’s back. It is not uncommon for this snake to also have a checkerboard pattern with stripes and squares along the sides of its rough scaled body.

This common snake is found throughout North Carolina, as well as most of the US. They are active during the day and have a diet consisting of fish, frogs, earthworms, and salamanders. While they usually live in or next to wet areas, this garter snake can be found in almost any North Carolina habitat.

4. Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern hognose snake playing dead
Eastern hognose snake playing dead

Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos

The Eastern hognose snake is a rather stocky creature that reaches lengths of up to 4 feet long, and can be found throughout the state of North Carolina. They can have a wide array of coloring, but are typically darker in color, with hues of gray and brown with brownish blotches.

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Their most distinguishing feature is their upturned nose which resembles a hog. This unique nose allows them to dig for toads, which are their preferred food.

Eastern hognose snakes will spread their necks similar to a cobra and loudly hiss when they feel threatened. During this time, it is not uncommon for them to strike multiple times, but typically do not bite. If the threats continue, the hognose will pretend to die by opening its mouth wide and then rolling onto its back while writing.

5. Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern rat snake
Eastern rat snake | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Also known as the North Carolina rat snake, the Eastern rat snake is a large and common reptile found throughout NC. It can reach lengths of up to 8 feet long, and comes in various colors and patterns, from yellow to black. One way to identify this snake is by its heavy-body shape, which makes it look more like a bread loaf than the traditional round body that snakes often have.

These snakes are climbers and it is not uncommon to see them in trees. Rat snakes can also be found in attics, chimneys, and even basements. These constrictors consume rats and mice, but will also feed on birds and bird eggs, including chicken eggs.

6. Common Water Snake

Northern water snakes basking
Northern water snakes basking | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Also known as the Northern water snake, this water-loving snake is found in the North Carolina mountains, as well as the state’s northern Coastal Plain. It is drawn to wet habitats and feeds on aquatic wildlife, such as amphibians and fish.

This thick snake can grow up to 5 feet long with a reddish, gray, black, or brown body. The pattern on the body is cross-banded at the front, but will typically switch to blotches in alternating rows once it reaches the middle of the snake’s body. It is not uncommon for the older snakes of this species to darken in color.

7. Scarlet Kingsnake

Scarlet kingsnake
Scarlet kingsnake | source: Land Between the Lakes KY/TN

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis elapsoides

The Scarlet kingsnake is easy to recognize with its brightly colored pattern in shades of red, yellow, and black bands. Despite it being non-venomous, it is often confused with the coral snake, which is venomous. The easiest way to tell the difference, however, is that the scarlet kingsnake has a red nose, and its yellow and red bands are separated by black bands.

This kingsnake typically doesn’t grow any longer than 2 ½-feet, and is found throughout the state of North Carolina, but is not typically found in the Piedmont region of NC. They thrive in pine forests where they can hide under bark and in rotting logs. These small constrictors consume mice, lizards, and smaller snakes.

8. Eastern Milksnake

Eastern Milksnake
Eastern Milksnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

The Eastern milksnakes are related to scarlet kingsnakes, but look completely different. Not only are they much larger, reaching lengths of up to 4-feet, but they are not as brightly colored.

Milksnakes are brown or gray with reddish or dark brown splotches. They live in the grassy mountains and wooded areas throughout North Carolina. Like their cousin the kingsnake, milksnakes consume mice, lizards, and smaller snakes.

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9. Racer

Black racer coiled in grass
Black racer coiled in grass | credit: Everglades National Park

Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor 

Racers are slender snakes that can reach up to 6-feet in length. These creatures have smooth scales and a black body, and are known for their speed. They are found throughout North Carolina in various habitats, but tend to prefer open areas that allow them to warm themselves in the sunlight.

As their name suggests, racers chase down prey, such as rodents, insects, frogs, lizards, and small snakes, instead of constricting them. While they are not venomous and do not chase people, they will bite if they feel threatened.

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