Black Snakes in Missouri (And 18 More Snakes Species Found in MO)

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 09:02 am.

Snakes are an important and fascinating part of the Missouri ecosystem. With a diverse array of species and habitats, three are many different species of snakes in Missouri that range from non-venomous species like garter snakes to venomous species like the cottonmouth. Black snakes in Missouri are common as well as several types of non-venomous water snakes.

These reptiles play important roles in controlling rodent populations, spreading seeds, and maintaining the balance of the food chain. Understanding the different species of snakes found in Missouri, as well as their behavior and habitats, is important for coexisting with these fascinating creatures and appreciating their importance in the ecosystem.

Let's explore the fascinating world of snake species in Missouri. Learn about black snakes in Missouri as well as water snakes and venomous snakes found in Missouri.

Whether you are a seasoned snake enthusiast or just starting to learn about these reptiles, or simply want to know what snakes you might see during a hike, while camping in Missouri or on an outdoor adventure, let’s explore the fascinating world of snake species in Missouri.

Snakes in Missouri

Black Snakes in Missouri

There are many different species of snakes in Missouri, but most are found in rural areas. There are a few types of snakes that might be seen while hiking in the woods or walking the dog at dusk, but they are not common. Here is an overview of the most common snake species that you may encounter while living in Missouri.

Most snakes found in Missouri are not considered a threat to humans, but there are some species of venomous snakes in Missouri.

Black Snakes in Missouri

Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)
Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)

The black snake is a common species in Missouri and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and wetlands.

It is important to note that the term “black snake” can refer to several different species of snakes, including the black rat snake, the black racer, and the garter snake.

The specific species of black snake that can be found in Missouri will depend on the location and habitat within the state. If you are interested in learning more about the different species of black snakes found in Missouri, it is best to consult with a local wildlife expert or the Missouri Department of Conservation.

There are several additional species of black snakes in Missouri, including:

Black Rat Snakes in Missouri (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)

Black rat snakes in Missouri are harmless to humans and will generally avoid humans if given the chance. Black rat snakes are known for their ability to climb and forage for small mammals. They eat mainly rats and mice, but will also eat other small rodents such as squirrels and rabbits.

The Black Rat Snake is a large, non-venomous snake that is commonly found in Missouri and is known for its black color and distinctive pattern of large, white or yellowish blotches.

Black rat snakes are the most commonly encountered snake species in Missouri. These snakes are commonly found in urban and suburban areas, as well as rural areas, such as fields and prairies. They also frequent gardens, woodlands, and brushy areas. Black rat snakes are medium-sized snakes (1–2 feet long) that are mainly black or dark brown with faint yellowish stripes. They have a blunt head with a distinct black “rat”-like nose mark. Black rat snakes are nocturnal, so most people will only encounter them during the daytime.

Black Racer (Coluber constrictor)

Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) – This species is a long, slender, non-venomous snake that is known for its glossy, black skin and its fast-moving behavior. It is commonly found in Missouri and is often mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth.

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) – This species is a small snakes is non-venomous and commonly found in Missouri and is known for its black or dark-colored skin and distinctive pattern of stripes along its sides. It tends to inhabit wetland habitats.

These are the most common species of black snakes in Missouri, but there may be other species that can be found in the state as well. If you are interested in learning more about the different species of black snakes found in Missouri, it is best to consult with a local wildlife expert or the Missouri Department of Conservation.

More Snakes Found in Missouri

Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis)

Brown snakes are one of the common snakes in Missouri. Brown snakes are mostly common in the southern parts of the state and can also be found in the eastern parts. They can also be found in rural areas, such as fields and prairies.

Brown snakes are a medium-sized snake (1- to 2-feet long) that are mostly brown with faint brown or black stripes or rings. They have a blunt head with a distinct brown or black “snake”-like nose mark. Brown snakes are mainly active during the daytime, but they can be found on the move at night.

Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis saurita)

Eastern Ribbon Snake

Eastern ribbon snakes are a beautiful snake species found across Missouri. They are a small species (2–3 feet long) that is mostly colored in brown or gray with yellow or white streaks or bands. Eastern ribbon snakes are mostly active during the daytime, but they are also nocturnal. They are usually found in woods and forests, but can also routinely be found near buildings. Eastern ribbon snakes eat mostly small rodents, but they have also been known to eat other snakes, birds, frogs, and salamanders.

Missouri River Snake known as northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)

Missouri River snakes are a type of non-venomous snake found in the state. They are mostly a brown or green color, but they can also be found with white or yellow spots or blotches. Missouri River snakes are usually a small-sized species (about 6-feet long) that are mostly found near rivers, lakes, and marshes, but they can also be found in fields and other wet areas.

Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata)

The Redbelly species are frequently found and are one of the common snakes in Missouri. They are a large species (6-10 feet long) that are mostly dark brown with yellow or red bands or spots. They are mainly found in wet areas, such as marshes, swamps, rivers, and fields. Redbellies are found in much of central Missouri. They are 20-25 cm in length and a nonvenomous snake. This species has brown dorsal scales and a red belly.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

This species is a non-venomous snake that is known for its distinctive upturned snout and its ability to play dead when threatened. They are primarily found in the eastern part of the state near wetlands and other bodies of water. They feed primarily on frogs, toads, and other small prey. Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are not considered dangerous to humans, but like all snakes, they may bite if they feel threatened.

Western Mud Snake (Farancia abacura reinwardtii)

This species is a non-venomous snake that is found in the southern part of the state near bodies of water. They are known for their shiny, black scales and their ability to burrow into mud and other soft substrates.

Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)

This non-venomous snake is known for its resistance to venom and its ability to consume other snakes, including venomous species. This species is mostly found in open woodlands and dry, rocky hills. It was known to mostly live east of the Mississippi River, but recently the species have been discovered in southeastern Missouri.

Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Cottonmouths are also found in Missouri. They are a large species of water snakes found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and marshes throughout the state. Most people find cottonmouths during the summer when the water is warmer. The cottonmouth prefers to be on the ground along the water’s edge and rarely if ever climbs trees according to Missouri Department of Conservation.

They are a venomous snake and classified as a “prohibited species” in Missouri and can only be kept by a licensed herpetologist.

It’s important to note that while these species are common in Missouri, they may not be present in all parts of the state and other species may also be present.

Water Snakes in Missouri

The most common water snake in Missouri is the northern watersnake. Like other watersnakes, the northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) can defend itself by biting but lacks venom. The northern watersnake is gray to reddish brown with dark brown crossbands and a bulky body. It’s mostly found near quiet bodies of water such as ponds and marshes.

It is often mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth.

The broad-banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens) is yellow and grey with large brown or black bands. It grows between 22 and 36 inches. They live in the southeastern corner of Missouri and are non-venomous and often found around streams, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer) – This species is easily recognized by its distinctive diamond pattern on its back and its semi-aquatic habits.

Yellow-bellied Water Snake (Nerodia flavigaster) – This species is characterized by its yellow or tan underbelly and its preference for slow-moving streams and rivers.

Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) are the only venomous water snake in Missouri. But they aren’t limited to just aquatic habitats. Cottonmouths can also be found in palmetto thickets, pine forests, dune areas, and prairies.

These are some of the most common species of water snakes in Missouri, but there are other species of non-venomous and venomous snakes that are also found in the state. It is important to be able to identify snakes and to understand their behavior, especially if you encounter one in the wild.

In fact, broad-banded watersnakes often are mistaken for western cottonmouths and needlessly killed.

If you encounter a water snake while spending time near water or while fishing, it is best to leave it alone and avoid contact. If you need to remove a snake from your property, it is recommended that you contact a wildlife expert or animal control professional to handle the situation. These professionals have the necessary training and equipment to safely remove the snake and release it back into its natural habitat.

Poisonous Snakes in Missouri

There are six species of poisonous snakes in Missouri in Missouri. These venomous snakes are the Osage Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake, Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, Prairie Massasauga and Pygmy Rattlesnake.

For a detailed description of each one and where they can most likely be found, there is a great pamphlet from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

As stated above, the Cottonmouth is the only venomous water snake found in Missouri. All of the other species of water snakes found in the state are non-venomous and pose no danger to humans. However, it is important to be aware that all snakes, including non-venomous species, can bite if they feel threatened, so it is best to avoid contact with any snake whenever possible.

The Cottonmouth, also known as the Water Moccasin, is a venomous water snake known to inhabit swamps, marshes, and other wetland habitats and are well-adapted to life in and near water.

Cottonmouths are commonly referred to as water snakes due to their aquatic habitats.

It is a member of the pit viper family and is characterized by its dark coloration and its habit of opening its mouth wide when threatened, revealing the white interior of its mouth hence the name “Cottonmouth”. If you encounter a Water Moccasin, it is important to leave it alone and avoid contact, as their venom can be dangerous to humans.

Other venomous snakes in Missouri

Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix ) and Osage Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster) – This species is is found in the southwestern part of the state and characterized by its hourglass-shaped crossbands on a light-colored background and is often found in rocky or wooded areas near water.

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) – Timber rattlesnakes are the most commonly found type of venomous snake in Missouri. They are also Missouri’s largest venomous snake and can grow up to 6-feet long.

They are mostly brown or gray with black or reddish spots or blotches. Timber rattlesnakes are mainly found in the central and western parts of the state. They are characterized by the rattle on the end of their tail and are found in wooded hillsides and rocky bluffs.

Western Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri) – This species is much smaller than the Timber Rattlesnake and is characterized by its small rattle on the end of its tail and its preference for rocky, wooded habitats.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) – Also known locally as the swamp rattler, this snake lives in marshy areas or wet prairies and may take shelter in burrows of crayfish or other animals. This snake is gray to dark gray with numerous brown or gray-brown blotches, and often a dark line extending from the eye onto the side of the neck. The belly is dark gray or black, and there is a small rattle at the end of the tail.

This rattlesnake is state-endangered and according to the Missouri Department of Conservation has not been seen in Missouri for many years.

Prairie Massasauga (Sistrurus tergeminus tergeminus) – This species is light gray to dark gray with rows of dark to light brown blotches along the body. The belly is generally light in color, and there is a small rattle at the end of the tail. Prairie massasaugas live mainly in bottomland or wet prairies with grasses and sedges that have numerous crayfish burrows they use for shelter from predators and weather conditions.

If you encounter any snake, and especially venomous snakes it is important to leave it alone and avoid contact. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Most Common Time of Year to See Snakes in Missouri

Snakes in Missouri are most active during the warmer months, typically from April to October. However, some species of snakes, such as garter snakes, may be active and visible earlier in the spring, while others, such as rat snakes, may be active later into the fall.

During the winter months, snakes in Missouri will typically become less active and may brumate, or enter a state of reduced activity and metabolism, in order to survive the colder temperatures.

Snake Bites

snake bite

What to do if Bitten by a Venomous Snake

If you are bitten by a venomous snake, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The following steps can help you manage the bite while you wait for medical help to arrive:

  1. Stay calm: Try to remain calm and still, as this will slow the spread of venom through your body.
  2. Remove constricting clothing and jewelry: If you are wearing tight clothing or jewelry, remove it to prevent it from constricting your bite wound.
  3. Clean the bite wound: Wash the bite wound with soap and water. Do not use a tourniquet or try to suck out the venom, as this can cause further harm.
  4. Immobilize the affected limb: Immobilize the limb that was bitten, if possible, by using a splint or sling. This will help prevent the spread of venom through your body.
  5. Call for emergency medical assistance: Call 911 or your local emergency services number and explain the situation. They will be able to provide further instructions and guide you to the nearest medical facility.

It is important to note that self-treating snake bites can be dangerous and is not recommended. The best way to treat a snake bite is to seek professional medical care as soon as possible.

What is the Best Way to Treat non-venomous Snake Bites?

If you are bitten by a non-venomous snake, the following steps can help you manage the bite:

  1. Clean the bite wound: Wash the bite wound thoroughly with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Apply an antiseptic: Apply an antiseptic such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to the bite wound to help prevent infection.
  3. Elevate the affected limb: If possible, elevate the limb that was bitten above your heart to help reduce swelling.
  4. Apply a clean bandage: Cover the bite wound with a clean bandage to keep it protected.
  5. Monitor for signs of infection: Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge from the bite wound, and seek medical attention if necessary.

In most cases, non-venomous snake bites are not serious and can be treated with basic first-aid measures. However, if you experience significant pain, swelling, or any other symptoms that concern you, it is always best to seek medical attention to be sure.

What is the best thing to do if you see a snake?

If you encounter a snake, the best thing to do is to give it space and avoid disturbing it. Here are some tips for safely encountering snakes:

  1. Keep a safe distance: Snakes can feel threatened when people approach too closely, and may respond by biting. Keep a safe distance of at least six feet from the snake.
  2. Do not attempt to handle the snake: Snakes, even non-venomous species, can bite if they feel threatened. It is not safe to attempt to handle a snake, even if you think it is non-venomous.
  3. Respect their territory: Snakes are often found in their preferred habitats, such as near water, in the woods, or in tall grass. If you come across a snake in its territory, it is best to give it a wide berth and avoid disturbing it.
  4. Move slowly and quietly: Snakes are sensitive to vibrations and may become frightened or defensive if they perceive that they are being approached too quickly or noisily. Move slowly and quietly if you encounter a snake.
  5. Seek professional help if necessary: If you need to remove a snake from your property, or if you are concerned about a snake in your area, contact a wildlife expert or animal control professional for assistance.

Remember, snakes play important roles in the ecosystem and should be respected and appreciated from a safe distance. By giving snakes their space, you can avoid potential conflicts and help protect these important animals.

Wildlife Code of Missouri for Snakes

The wildlife code of Missouri is governed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which is responsible for managing and conserving the state’s wildlife resources. The code sets regulations for the management and protection of Missouri’s snake species, including hunting and trapping seasons, bag limits, and other restrictions.

It is illegal to take, possess, or transport snakes without a permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation, except in certain circumstances, such as for educational purposes or for scientific research. The code also prohibits the killing of certain protected species of snakes, such as the eastern timber rattlesnake and the midland brown snake.

If you have specific questions about the wildlife code of Missouri as it relates to snakes, it is best to contact the Missouri Department of Conservation directly for the most up-to-date and accurate information. They will be able to provide you with detailed information and guidance on how to comply with the code and ensure that your activities related to snakes are conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Snakes in Missouri FAQ

What is the smallest snake in Missouri?

The smallest snake native to Missouri is the flat-headed snake (Tantilla gracilis), which averages between 7 to 8 inches long.

What is the most common snake in Missouri?

Black rat snakes are the most commonly encountered snake species in Missouri.

Is it illegal to kill snakes in Missouri? 

In Missouri, it is not illegal to kill non-venomous snakes, but it is illegal to kill venomous snakes without a permit. This is because venomous snakes play an important role in controlling populations of small mammals and reptiles, and killing them can disrupt the balance of the ecosystem. Additionally, killing venomous snakes can also pose a threat to public safety.

If you need to remove a snake from your property, it is recommended that you contact a wildlife expert or animal control professional to handle the situation. These professionals have the necessary training and equipment to safely remove the snake and release it back into its natural habitat.

It is also important to note that some species of snakes in Missouri are protected by law, and it is illegal to kill or harass them without a permit. If you are unsure about the legal status of a particular species of snake in Missouri, you can contact the Missouri Department of Conservation for more information.

When do snakes hibernate in Missouri? 

Snakes in Missouri typically hibernate from October to April, depending on the species and local weather conditions. Hibernation is a period of reduced activity and metabolism that allows snakes to conserve energy and survive during the cold winter months.

During hibernation, snakes will typically seek out a warm, sheltered location, such as a rock crevice, burrow, or the hollow of a tree, where they can curl up and wait out the winter. Some species of snakes may also brumate, or enter a state of reduced activity, rather than truly hibernate. Still, the basic idea is the same – they reduce their metabolism and become less active in order to conserve energy during the cold winter months.

It is important to understand that hibernation patterns and behavior can vary depending on the species of snake, as well as local weather conditions, and other factors.

Is there more than one Copperhead snake species in Missouri?

Yes. Missouri has two subspecies of eastern copperhead: The Osage copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster), found in the northern two-thirds of the state, and the southern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix) in the southern third.

Conclusion

The Missouri snake population is diverse, but it is not surprising that the state has a few common species. When you are outside, be sure to check for snakes and other reptiles, but do not attempt to handle them. There are several species that are venomous and can pose a threat to humans and pets. If you encounter one, stay away from it and call a wildlife expert for help. Snakes are fascinating, and you may be surprised to learn that they are more common than you think. When you are outside in Missouri, make sure to keep your eyes open for snakes, but do not attempt to pick them up

If you have any questions about the particular species of snake in Missouri or laws about snakes, contact a local herpetologist or the Missouri Department of Conservation at (636) 441-4554 for more information.

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