Maryland Snakes

Snakes are an integral part of Maryland’s fauna, functioning as important predators. Snakes are limbless reptiles with elongate bodies that are covered with scales. All snakes lack external ear openings and eyelids and have long, forked tongues. Maryland is home to 27 species and sub-species of snakes, including two with medically significant venom, the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. These two species are found in the viper family (Viperidae). The remaining species are in the family Colubridae, which is the largest snake family in the world. For more information on venomous snakes in Maryland, check out our venomous snakes page. Here is our easy photo guide to common snakes of Maryland.

Sna​ke Anatomy​

​​​​S​nake Family​
Number of Species &
Subspecies in Maryland​
​Viper (Viperidae)
​2
​Colubridae​
​25

Pit Vipers (Subfamily Crotalinae)

There are two species of pit vipers found in Maryland, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) and the eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix). Both of these species are dangerously venomous and should be treated with caution. Do not approach or handle these snakes as a bite could be fatal. As the name implies the pit vipers have a heat seeking pit between each eye and nostril. The pit vipers also differ noticeably from the colubrids by having vertical pupils, and undivided subcaudal scales (Conant and Collins 1998). For more information on Maryland’s venomous snakes, please click here. For visuals of snake anatomy features, please click here.

Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Photo courtesy of Linh Phu
Former Name:​ Northern Copperhead
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) – Watchlist
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith

Colubrids (Family Colubridae)

Maryland colubrids differ from vipers by having round pupils in the eyes, no heat seeking pit between each eye and nostril, a complete set of divided sub-caudal scales, and a series of large plates (scales) on the dorsum of the head.

There are 25 different types of snakes (including sub-species) from the Family Colubridae that can be found in Maryland. Due to the large number of genera (16) and the relatively few species within each genus (no more than two), identification of Maryland colubrids to genus is not discussed here. Species and sub-species descriptions follow. ​

Click on the common name for more information on each snake species and subspecies.

Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Former Name: Northern Watersnake
Plain-bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
Photo courtesy of Dave Wilson
Former Name: Red-bellied Watersnake
Queensnake (Regina septemvittata)
Photo courtesy of John White
Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae)
Photo courtesy of Jay Kilian
Mountain Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae pulchra) – Endangered
Photo courtesy of Don Forester
Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Former Name: Northern Brownsnake
Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
Photo courtesy of Mark Tegges
Former Name: Northern Red-bellied Snake
Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Photo courtesy of John White
Former Name: Eastern Gartersnake
Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus)
Photo courtesy of John White
Former Name: Common Ribbonsnake
Northern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
Southern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus)
Photo courtesy of Matt Close
Former Name: Ring-necked Snake 
Common Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus)
Photo courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
Former Name: Eastern Wormsnake
Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
Photo courtesy of Matt Sell
Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
Photo courtesy of Linh Phu
Former Name: Northern Rough Snake
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Photo courtesy of Corey Wickliffe
Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma) - Endangered
Photo courtesy of Lance Benedict
North American Racer (Coluber constrictor)
Photo courtesy of John White
Former Name: Northern Black Racer
Eastern Pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus) - Historic
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Former Name: Northern Pinesnake
Red Cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus)
Photo courtesy of Linh Phu
Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)
Photo courtesy of John White
Northern Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis rhombomaculata)
Photo courtesy of John White
Former Name: Mole Kingsnake
Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
Photo courtesy of John White
Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
Photo courtesy of John White
Coastal Plain Milksnake Coastal Plain Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides X triangulum )
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Scarletsnake​ (Cemophora coccinea) -Watchlist
Photo courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Former Name: Northern Scarletsnake
​​

A number of documents were used to compile the snake descriptions that follow. The document that provided the most information was The Reptiles of Virginia by Joseph C. Mitchell (1994). Amphibians and Reptiles of Pennsylvania by Arthur C. Hulse, C. J. McCoy, and Ellen Censky (2001) and Amphibians and Reptiles of Delmarva by James F. and Amy Wendt White (2002) were also extremely useful. These books are recommended to anyone seeking more comprehensive information on North American snake ecology and identification.

In addition to physical descriptions of snakes, maps depicting the distribution of each snake species in Maryland are also included. The distribution maps include historical distributional information that was compiled by Harris (1975) and distributional surveys of select species by Thompson (1984). White and White (2002) provided a great deal of distributional information for snakes on Maryland’s eastern shore. Additional recent distribution information was provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Biological Stream Survey and Natural Heritage Program, and from additional literature where appropriate. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​