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Snakes in Michigan

Thare are 18 types of snakes in Michigan of which the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) lists 17 nonvenomous and one venomous.

Whether you need a herping guide for your next trip through the assorted geography of Michigan or you’re just looking for a new pet, this list should be of aid when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of the 18 different snake species that inhabit Michigan.

Snakes in Michigan

1. Black rat snake

Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Elaphe obsoleta
  • Other Names: Gray rat snake
  • Adult Size: 40-101 inches (101.6-256.54 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Average Price Range: $60

Informally known as the gray rat snake, this species can be either black, brown, or gray with a white chin.

A very rare snake, the black rat snake can be found in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula. They are also the state’s largest snake! Based on their name, I’m sure you can guess what they mainly feed on.

2. Blue racer

Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii)
Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor foxi
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 35-75 inches (88.9-190.5 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $50-$100

Considered a species of greatest conversation need by the MDNR, the blue racer’s population has recently declined in southern Michigan. Blue racers prefer dry and sunny habitats such as fields, thickets, and forests.

As their namesake makes apparent, their coloration is typically dark blue, turquoise, or gray with a dark mask-esque blotch behind their eyes. Their diet consists of rodents, frogs, other snakes, and some small birds. These snakes are also extremely fast.

3. Brown snake

Brown Snake (storeria dekayi)
Brown Snake (storeria dekayi)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Storeria dekayi dekayi
  • Other Names: De Kay’s snake
  • Adult Size: 9-20 inches (22.86-50.8 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: ~7 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

Brown snakes, also known as De Kay’s snake (after American zoologist James Ellsworth De Kay), are small brown, nonvenomous snakes that reside throughout the entire state of Michigan.

Usually found in prairies, meadows, and marshes, these brownish yellow snakes are no strangers to human beings, often living in urban and suburban areas. They even make great small pets. Brown snakes feed largely on slugs, snails, and earthworms.

4. Butler’s garter snake

Butler's Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri)
Butler’s Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri)
  • Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis butleri
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 15-29 inches (38.1-73.6 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 6-10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Another species considered of greatest conservation need, the Butler’s garter snake has a dark brown or black body with three yellow, orange, or cream-colored stripes going down the length of its body.

Often confused with the northern ribbon snake, the Butler’s garter snake has a small and narrow head, in comparison to the northern ribbon snake’s larger, long head. Their favorite food is earthworms, however, they’ll also feed on leeches, small frogs, and salamanders.

Butler’s garter snakes can be found in marshes and meadows throughout the eastern and southern Lower Peninsula.

5. Copper-bellied water snake

Copper-Bellied Water Snake
Copper-Bellied Water Snake
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta
  • Other Names: Copperbelly
  • Adult Size: 36-60 inches (91-152 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Not recorded
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The copper-bellied watersnake is a vulnerable snake species that is very rare in Michigan. They have a dark (black, blue, or brown) back with a copper colored underside.

Copper-bellied watersnakes generally inhabit swamps, ponds, lakes, and other aquatic environments in southern Michigan. Their diet consists of frogs, salamanders, and small fish.

6. Eastern garter snake

Eastern Garter Snake curled up on a rock (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Eastern Garter Snake curled up on a rock (Thamnophis sirtalis)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis
  • Other Names: Common garter snake, red-sided garter snake
  • Adult Size: 18-48 inches (45.72-121.92 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

The eastern garter snake can be found everywhere in Michigan as it’s the most common snake the state has to offer. They occupy a wide range of habitats, from moist grassy areas to suburban areas.

Also often confused with the northern ribbon snake, eastern garter snakes are usually black, brown, or gray with yellow, greenish, brown, blue, or white stripes. Their tongue is red with a black tip. Eastern garter snakes mostly subsist on frogs, toads, slugs, and worms.

7. Eastern hog-nosed snake

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Other Names: Puff adder, hissing sand snake
  • Adult Size: 20-40 inches (50.8-101.6 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: ~12 years
  • Average Price Range: $130

The eastern hog-nosed snake can be found throughout most of the Lower Peninsula, as well as the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula. Hence their name, these guys have a pig-like nose that’s used for digging.

The coloration of an eastern hog-nosed snake varies (black, brown, green, orange, red, or a combination). They can also have a checkered or blotched pattern or even be pattern-less. The main feature to look out for is the upturned snout. Their diet solely consists of amphibians.

8. Eastern milk snake

Eastern Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)
Eastern Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum
  • Other Names: Chicken snake, kingsnake
  • Adult Size: 24-36 inches (60-91 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Average Price Range: $60-$120

What I subjectively consider to be the best pet on this list, the eastern milk snake is found all over the Lower Peninsula. Often confused with the extremely venomous coral snake, if you see a snake with red, black, and creamy bands in Michigan, it’s a milk snake as the state is not home to coral snakes.

Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, small birds, and sometimes other snakes.

9. Eastern fox snake

Eastern Fox Snake (Pantherophis gloydi) curled around owners hand
Eastern Fox Snake (Pantherophis gloydi) curled around owners hand
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Pantherophis gloydi
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 36-54 inches (91-137 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Up to 17 years
  • Average Price Range: $170

Opposed to the western fox snake, the eastern fox snake is listed as threatened in Michigan. Eastern fox snakes typically find their habitat in marshes and dunes along the Great Lakes shoreline.

Their coloration is typically light brown or yellow with a row of darker blotches down the back. You can also spot a dark stripe between the eyes. The eastern fox snake can be considered a picky eater as it, for the most part, feeds on meadow voles.

10. Kirtland’s snake

Kirtlands snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)
Kirtlands snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Clonophis kirtlandii
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 12-24 inches (30.48-60.96 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 5+ years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Found sparingly in the meadows and woodlands of southern Michigan, Kirtland’s snake is listed as endangered.

They’re typically red, gray, or brown with four rows of dark, rounded blotches going down the back. One interesting fact about Kirtland’s snake is that they completely flatten their body when threatened. Their diet consists of earthworms, slugs, and leeches.

11. Northern red-bellied snake

Northern Red bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
Northern Red bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Storeria occipitomaculata
  • Other Names: Fire snake
  • Adult Size: 4-10 inches (10-25 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Average Price Range: $60

Northern red-bellied snakes can be found in fields and woods throughout Michigan. Their coloration is a dark topside with a reddish belly. These small snakes feed on slugs, snails, earthworms, and insects.

12. Northern ribbon snake

Northern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis)
Northern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis) – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis
  • Other Names:
  • Adult Size: 16-26 inches (40.64-66.04 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 12-20 years
  • Average Price Range: $40

Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate the northern ribbon snake from the eastern garter snake. The two species share similar habitats along the edges of lakes, ponds, streams and marshes.

They also both solely feed on cold-blooded prey, but there are two main differences between the species: (1) stripe location and (2) body size. Northern ribbon snakes are thinner with a much longer tail while garter snakes are a tad heftier.

Northern ribbon snakes have side stripes on the third and fourth scale rows; the eastern garter snake’s side stripe extends to scale row 4.

13. Northern ring-necked snake

Northern Ring necked snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
Northern Ring necked snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Diadophis punctatus edwardsii
  • Other Names: Corkscrew snake, thimble snake
  • Adult Size: 10-24 inches (25.4-60.96 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

The northern ring-necked snake can be found throughout Michigan but more so on the islands. This species is typically bluish black or brownish gray with a bright orange or yellow ring around its neck. Its belly color matches the color of the ring.

Northern ring-necked snakes prefer moist yet shady environments. They feed on salamanders, newts, slugs, earthworms, frogs, and even other small snakes.

14. Northern watersnake

Northern Water Snake (nerodia sipedon) climbing in a tree
Northern Water Snake (nerodia sipedon) climbing in a tree
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Other Names: Common watersnake
  • Adult Size: Up to 32-35 inches (81.28-88.9 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 9 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

Often confused with the copper-bellied watersnake, the northern water snake can be gray, red, brown, or black and has crossbands on the neck. It also may have blotches down the rest of the body.

They can be found in different aquatic areas in both the Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula. Northern watersnakes eat fish, crayfish, worms, leeches, small mammals, and small birds.

15. Smooth green snake

Juvenile Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
Juvenile Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Opheodrys vernalis
  • Other Names: Grass snake, green grass snake
  • Adult Size: 12-26 inches (30.48-66.04 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Up to 6 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

The small amount of smooth green snakes that live in Michigan are in the southern part of the state. They prefer moist grassy areas like prairies, meadows, and savannas. This species is entirely bright green with a whitish yellow belly. This smooth-scaled snake feeds only on insects.

16. Queen snake

Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) coiled up in grass
Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) coiled up in grass
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Regina septemvittata
  • Other Names: Moon snake, striped water snake
  • Adult Size: 13.4-36.3 inches (34-92.2 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: 12-19 years
  • Average Price Range: $35

The queen snake is olive, gray, or brown and has two yellow stripes that run down its length at the first scale. They primarily live near water in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula.

These snakes also have four brown ventral scales, which is key in identifying them. Their diet consists of crayfish, tadpoles, minnows, and fairy shrimp.

17. Western fox snake

Western Fox Snake on rock and dirt (Pantherophis ramspotti)
Western Fox Snake on rock and dirt (Pantherophis ramspotti)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Pantherophis ramspotti
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 36-50 inches (91.44-127 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Up to 17 years
  • Average Price Range: $170

The second of the fox snakes in Michigan, the western fox snake does not live on the Great Lakes shoreline like its counterpart in genera. Instead, it occupies pastures and prairies.

The two fox snakes of Michigan also look quite similar (light brown or yellow with a row of darker blotches), so the easiest way to differentiate the two is via location. Western fox snakes also aren’t as picky as they’ll snack on a variety of small mammals and birds.

Venomous Snakes in Michigan

18. Eastern massasauga rattlesnake*

Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)
Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Scientific Name: Sistrurus catenatus
  • Other Names: Swamp rattler
  • Adult Size: 24-30 inches (60-75 centimeters)
  • Lifespan: Up to 14 years
  • Average Price Range: $100

The only venomous snake in the state of Michigan, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake will typically avoid human interaction.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake’s coloration is usually grey or tan with brown or black spots. They reside sparingly in wetlands across the Lower Peninsula. Easter massasauga rattlesnakes mostly eat mice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you own a snake in Michigan?

MICH. COMP. LAWS §287.731 makes it clear which animals cannot be kept as pets, and snakes are not listed. Therefore, you can own a snake in the state of Michigan.

What venomous snakes live in Michigan?

The only venomous snake in the state of Michigan is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Generally shy around humans, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes rarely bite. However, if you are ever bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

Is it illegal to kill a snake in Michigan?

In the state of Michigan, four snakes are protected by law (black rat snake, butler’s garter snake, eastern massasauga rattlesnake, and smooth green snake). The other 14 species are unprotected.

So, in theory, you can kill a snake in Michigan, but remember that snakes are vital to the ecosystem.

What is the largest snake in Michigan?

The black rat snake is the largest snake in Michigan as an adult can grow to over eight feet in length.

Conclusion

From the Upper Peninsula all the way down to Jackson, there are a multitude of snake species in Michigan. Thank you so much for reading, and we hope this list of snakes in Michigan helps you out—whether it be herping or pet shopping.

Please take some time to comment below and discuss Michigan’s snakes with fellow enthusiasts.

Snakes in other states

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