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32 Types of Brown Snakes in North America

For the purposes of this article, we’re classifying brown snakes as snakes with mostly brown scales or pattern of scales that includes brown. These types of brown snake species live throughout North America in habitats that range from coastal to mountainous.

Brown is a very common color for snakes, so brown snakes can be venomous or nonvenomous. Some species can measure over five feet long as adults, while others can fit in the palm of your hand. In this article, we’ll learn about some of the different types of brown snakes that live in North America.

32 Types of Brown Snakes

These snakes can be venomous or nonvenomous. We’ve divided them up into venomous brown snakes and nonvenomous brown snakes.

Venomous Brown Snakes

1. Eastern Copperhead

Coiled eastern copperhead
Coiled eastern copperhead | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix 
  • Venomous: Yes

Copperheads are native to the eastern United States. They range in color from reddish brown to dark brown to gray, but they all have the characteristic hourglass-shaped pattern on their backs.

These ambush predators blend in so well with their environment that most snakebites happen when people accidentally step on them. They can reach up to 3 feet long, but most are a little over 2.5 feet long.

2. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake 
Western diamond-backed rattlesnake  | image by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Crotalus atrox
  • Venomous: Yes

The Western diamond-backed rattlesnakes are aggressive venomous snakes. They have tan and brown scales; their warmth ranges from grayish to reddish depending on the habitat type.

This snake averages around 4 feet long and lives in most of the western United States.

3. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Crotalus horridus 
  • Venomous: Yes

The Timber rattlesnake is a common inhabitant of most of the eastern United States. It lives in forests, where it blends in with trees and dappled sunlight. Dark zig-zags of brown are interspersed with gray-tan scales on its back.

They may be the most venomous American snake, but they give lengthy warning before attacking.

4. Speckled Rattlesnake

Speckled Rattlesnake
Speckled Rattlesnake | image by Joshua Tree National Park via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Crotalus mitchellii
  • Venomous: Yes

The Speckled rattlesnakes are common in the Southwestern United States. Here, their gray-brown scales blend in with rocky outcroppings, deserts, and scrubland. Its scales are also highly textured to appear similar to rocks and gravel.

They average about 3 feet long and are most active at dawn and dusk. When it gets cold, they hibernate in rock crevices and burrows.

5. Pacific Rattlesnake

Northern pacific rattlesnake
Northern pacific rattlesnake | image by Franco Folini via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Crotalus oreganus
  • Venomous: Yes

Western rattlesnakes are plentiful in the Western United States. They live in California, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains in a variety of habitats. Snakes that live in forests have more brown scales than snakes native to high deserts.

Their scale pattern is similar to most rattlesnakes: medium patches over a light base color. Pacific rattlesnakes’ patches have a darker border around the medium patch. They average a little over 3 feet long and eat small mammals, birds, and lizards.

6. Northern Cottonmouth

Northern cottonmouth
Northern cottonmouth | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Agkistrodon piscivorus 
  • Venomous: Yes

The Northern cottonmouths blend in very well with the forest floor. A prey animal’s first indicator that there’s a snake might be the cottony-white color of the inside of its mouth, but by then, it’s too late.

Younger snakes have a brown pattern, but older snakes lose the pattern and are solid brown.

7. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake F. Muhammad from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Crotalus adamanteus
  • Venomous: Yes 

Look for Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in the southeastern United States. They are the largest and heaviest species of rattlesnake. The average size is 3.5 to 5.5 feet long, but snakes of 7 feet have been reported.

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They live mostly on the ground, where they eat rabbits, rats, and birds. Some also eat insects and even turkeys!

8. Prairie Rattlesnake

source: White Sands National Park
  • Scientific name: Crotalus viridis
  • Venomous: Yes

The Prairie rattlesnake is native to America’s wide-open prairies. It also ventures into the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Snakes are dark brown to tan in color. They eat ground-dwelling animals like ground squirrels, rats, prairie dogs, and the occasional bird. They grow to about 3 feet long.

Non-Venomous Brown Snakes 

9. Western Fox Snake

Western fox snake
Western fox snake | image by Davis Harder via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Pantherophis ramspotti
  • Venomous: No

It may look like a venomous snake, but the western fox snake does not pose a threat to humans. Its mottled dark brown and gray scales can fool the inexperienced observer. When threatened, they imitate rattlesnakes by shaking their tails.

It grows between three and five feet long. Keep an eye out for the western fox snake if you live in the central United States, especially near Missouri and Iowa.

10. Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Northern cat-eyed snake
Northern cat-eyed snake | image by Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Leptodeira septentrionalis
  • Venomous: No

The Northern cat-eyed snakes live in southern Texas south into Mexico and Central America. They are lithe and slender, with extremely large eyes. Their coloration is a dark brown pattern on the back and white on the belly.

It uses its large eyes to see well in the dark, since it hunts for amphibians at night. They grow up to 3 feet long.

11. 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 
  • Venomous: No

Also known as the Northern watersnake, the Common watersnake uses mimicry to keep predators away. The red-brown blotches on its back look similar to the hourglass-shaped bands of cottonmouths and copperheads.

They live in and around water sources, where they like to bask during the daytime. Common watersnakes grow to about 2.5 feet long.

12. Western Hognose Snake

Western Hognose Snake in an aquarium
Western Hognose Snake in an aquarium | image by Heather Paul via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Heterodon nasicus 
  • Venomous: No

The Western hognose snakes have color patterns similar to rattlesnakes. This keeps potential predators away since they aren’t sure if they can kill the snake before it bites them.

Tell this snake apart from rattlesnakes by way of its upturned nose. The upwards-facing scales at the tip of the snout are called ‘nasal scutes.’ They help the snake dig into sand. It measures just under 2 feet long.

13. Chihuahuan Night Snake

  • Scientific name: Hypsiglena jani
  • Venomous: No

The Chihuhuan night snake is a small snake, measuring in at just over a foot long. Most specimens have thick reddish-brown bands along the back. Colors vary depending on the color of the gravel or dirt in their environment.

They eat reptiles and salamanders and live in the Chihuhuan Desert.

14. California Kingsnake

California kingsnake
California kingsnake
  • Scientific name: Lampropeltis californiae 
  • Venomous: No

The California kingsnakes vary widely in color. Scientists have classified two main morphs: the black-and-white morph and the brown-and-cream morph. Both morphs live throughout the state, except for the northeast corner and the high Sierra Nevadas.

They average 3 feet long and eat many types of animals, including mammals, lizards, frogs, birds, and other snakes.

15. Bullsnake

bull snake slithering
Bullsnake | image by Mike Lewinski via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Pituophis catenifer sayi
  • Venomous: No

The Bullsnakes are subspecies of Gopher snakes, which live throughout the United States. The bullsnake’s range is in the Central United States. It lives from Texas to Montana in the great plains, low-lying forests, and Rocky Mountain foothills.

This snake eats mice, rats, prairie dogs, and small gophers. They can grow up to 8 feet long!

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16. Pacific Gopher Snake

Pacific gopher snake
Pacific gopher snake | image by Bill Bouto via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Pituophis catenifer catenifer
  • Venomous: No

The Pacific gopher snake has brown spots along a tan base. As its name suggests, it eats many terrestrial rodents, including gophers, ground squirrels, mice, and rats. They also eat lizards and birds’ eggs.

This snake lives along the Pacific Coast from California to Oregon. They like open grassy areas, streamside habitats, and rural farmland.

17. Northern Mole Kingsnake

Northern mole kingsnake
Northern mole kingsnake | image by bensmith605 via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Lampropeltis rhombomaculata
  • Venomous: No

The Mole kingsnake has a terrestrial lifestyle a Star-nosed mole would be jealous of. It lives mostly underground, where it eats small rodents, other snakes, and reptiles.

They range in color from dark brown to reddish-tan. Adults measure about 3 feet long. They live along the southeast coast, from South Carolina to Virginia.

18. Two-striped Garter Snake

Two-striped garter snake
Two-striped garter snake | image: San Bernardino Nat’l Forest
  • Scientific name: Thamnophis hammondii
  • Venomous: No

The Two-striped garter snakes live along the Pacific Coast of California, from Monterey to the Mexican border. They are brown on top with a light yellow belly.

This snake averages a little over 2 feet long. It can swim and hold its breath long enough to catch fish and other amphibians.

19. Brown Water snake

Brown water snake on log
Brown water snake on log | image by Kelly Verdeck via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Nerodia taxispilota
  • Venomous: No

The Brown watersnakes live in the Eastern United States. Their bodies are made for swimming; they have several adaptations to life in the water.

One such adaptation is that their nostrils and eyes are close to the top of the head. This lets the snake see above-water by barely skimming its head along the surface. They eat catfish and average about 3.5 feet long.

20. Florida Brown snake

Florida brown snake
Florida brown snake | image by Sreejithk2000 via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific name: Storeria victa 
  • Venomous: No

The Florida brown snake is a small red-brown snake that lives in Florida’s peninsula. They often have a light-colored chin band too.

At just a foot long, they subsist on small soft-bodied creatures. Worms and slugs are a mainstay of this snake’s diet. They prefer wetlands but they can adapt to suburban homes and gardens.

21. Baja California Rat snake

  • Scientific name: Bogertophis rosaliae
  • Venomous: No

The Baja California rat snake lives only in extreme southern California, but there is a sizeable population in Mexico’s Baja California region. It is a light brown color that blends in with the tan desert landscape.

They average between 3 and 4 feet long. Bats, small reptiles, and small rodents make up its diet.

22. Great Plains Rat snake

Great plains rat snake
Great plains rat snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Pantherophis emoryi
  • Venomous: No

The Great Plains Rat snakes are dark brown and tan snakes that live in the eastern Southwest and Texas. Their name emphasizes their favorite snack: rodents, especially rats.

Farmers in Oklahoma and Texas appreciate this snake because it takes care of pesky rodents overnight. It adapts well to human infrastructure and often lives in rural barns and outbuildings.

23. Coachwhip

Coachwhip
Coachwhip | image by vet-adrianh-orozco via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Masticophis flagellum
  • Venomous: No

The Coachwhips are so-named because their slender brown bodies looked a lot like buggy-drivers’ horsewhips. These snakes can grow up to 8 feet long!

Look for them during the day. They use their high stamina to chase prey down and eat it. Coachwhips live throughout the southern United States; there are 6 subspecies from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

24. Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern garter snake
Eastern garter snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis 
  • Venomous: No

The Eastern garter snake is one of the most common snakes in all of the United States. Its scales are greenish-brown and help it blend in with the forest floor. They’re slender and average-sized, about 2 feet long.

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They live east of the Mississippi River in habitats from southern Canada south to the tip of Florida.

25. Yaqui Blackhead Snake

Yaqui blackhead snake
Yaqui blackhead snake | image by francisco3_ via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Tantilla yaquia
  • Venomous: No

The Yaqui blackhead snake is an uncommon reptile that lives only in the Southwest. It is a drab green-brown color that blends in well with the tan earth and long shadows in the desert.

It usually hibernates in the cold months. Because it’s so rare, its diet is not totally known, but scientists believe it subsists on centipedes and other insects.

26. Northwestern Garter snake

Northwestern garter snake
Northwestern garter snake | image by Corvi Zeman via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Thamnophis ordinoides 
  • Venomous: No

The Northwestern garter snakes are medium-sized snakes native to northern California, Oregon, and Washington. They live in forests and meadows of the coasts and mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

Its diet consists of amphibians, slugs, and salamanders. As a consequence, it relies heavily on water sources like ponds and streams to provide a regular food supply.

27. Glossy Crayfish Snake

Glossy crayfish snake
Glossy crayfish snake | credit: Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Regina rigida 
  • Venomous: No

The Glossy crayfish snakes are gray brown with yellow or white bellies. They are small and grow to be about 18 inches long.

Like its name suggests, the glossy crayfish snake’s primary food source is crayfish. Its preferred habitat corresponds to wherever crayfish live: low-lying areas with freshwater. They live in the southeastern United States.

28. DeKay’s Brown Snake

Dekay’s brown snake
Dekay’s brown snake | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Storeria dekayi
  • Venomous: No

The DeKay’s brown snakes have nondescript patterning over their backs in varying shades of brown. It’s usually in a zig-zag pattern. They live in the Eastern United States, the gulf coast of Mexico, and southern Canada.

They average less than a foot long. Because they’re so small, they usually eat insects, slugs, and worms. They hide in dirt on the forest floor.

29. Northern Rubber Boa

Rubber boa
Northern Rubber boa | image by andrewnydam via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific name: Charina bottae 
  • Venomous: No

The Northern rubber boa is one of the only boas in the United States. It’s a stocky snake with little to no patterning, small eyes, and a thick tail. This snake waves its tail to fool predators into thinking it’s the snake’s head.

It lives in most of Northern California, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Pacific Coast south to San Luis Obispo. Trees, alpine meadows, and caves are all good habitat for this snake.

30. Smooth Earth Snake

Smooth earth snake
Smooth earth snake | image by Don F Becker via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific name: Virginia valeriae 
  • Venomous: No

The Smooth earth snakes are gray-brown on top and white on the bottom. They’re very small and rarely grow over 12 inches long.

Specimens live most of their lives on the forest floor. They hide underneath leaf litter where they hunt for earthworms and small slugs.

31. Eastern Racer

North american racer
North american racer | image by arthur-windsor via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Coluber constrictor 
  • Venomous: No

Eastern racers are small, nonvenomous snakes that live in most of the United States: the east, the Great Plains, the Great Basin, and California. Because of their geographical range, they come in many different colors, one of which is brown.

Most specimens are about 3 to 5 feet long. They are opportunistic eaters that consume anything from rodents to lizards.

32. Wandering Garter Snake

Wandering garter snake hissing
Wandering garter snake hissing | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Thamnophis elegans vagrans
  • Venomous: No

The Wandering garter snakes live in most of the western United States. They are a mottled brown in color with three light brown stripes that extend from the head to the tail.

It eats anything it can fit in its mouth. That includes slugs, salamanders, mice, and large insects. They live in the Rockies, Great Basin, and the Southwest.

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