Snakes in New York

There are 17 native snakes in New York state including Milk snakes, hognose snakes, and even rattle snakes.

New York has a nice little variety of common snakes as well as three deadly, venomous ones: the Northern Copperhead, Timber Rattler, and Eastern Massasauga. While they are mostly harder to spot, they still do exist within state borders.

While Copperheads are mainly spotted in the Southeast corner of the state and Massasaugas are endangered, remaining in only small populations in Rochester and Syracuse, they won’t be as easy to run into.

The Timber Rattlesnake is also a threatened species and can only be found on hillsides in the southern parts of the state.

Basically, what we’re trying to say is that while these rattlers are dangerous, they are very rare to spot due to these issues.

All native snakes of New York are considered protected wildlife, making it illegal to even remove snakes from their homes. You must alert your local Humane Society to take care of it.

Because there have been past incidents with pythons and boas in New York City, the state has since banned all constrictor snakes. Actually, all venomous reptiles are illegal in the city.

For New York state, basically non-venomous, non-python, and non-boa snakes should be allowed for keeping as pets.

If you’re looking to get a pet snake, your best bet is Milksnakes, Kingsnakes, Garter Snakes, and other common non-venomous snakes that are legal to keep as pets in New York state.

Now that we’ve gotten the rules and regulations out of the way, here are some of the snakes you can find in your state:

Common Snake Species in New York

Here are some common snakes that roam the state:

1. Black Racer

Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor)
Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor constrictor
  • Other Names: Northern Black Racer
  • Adult Size: 33 to 65 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 years

Although Northern Black Racers are non-venomous, they are sometimes a little bit aggressive when defensive. As long as you don’t startle or corner it, it will not deliberately try to attack you.

Black racers do not usually feel threatened by humans but you should still not give it a reason to use self-defense. A bite can still be painful and susceptible to infection regardless of whether or not there is venom.

When threatened, they will raise their head.

As far as these snakes go as pets, they are not particularly docile and will only rarely become accustomed to being handled. Black racers also like to travel a lot over long distances, making them unsuitable for a tank or terrarium habitat.

Northern Black Racers have large, long, slender, solid black, round bodies with a white chin and a faded blue underside. They have smooth, matte-looking scales and a head that is almost the same width as their body.

Some black racers may be blue-gray, brown, dark gray, or rust-colored with blotches on their back as well.

You can find these snakes in habitats that are brushy such as grasslands, old fields, rock ledges, ridges, and agricultural fields.

They prey on toads, frogs, small birds, rodents, and smaller snakes. They may also sometimes feed on insects and invertebrates like moth larvae or butterflies.

2. Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Other Names: Eastern hog-nosed snake
  • Adult Size: 20 to 33 inches
  • Lifespan: 12 years

The Hognose snake is known to be one of the best pet snakes for enthusiasts since they are not fussy and are comfortable with human interaction. They also stay relatively small.

These worm-like snakes have a large, round head with an upward-facing snout, which is what we all love about them. They are dark gray or olive-green, but some are also yellow, tan, or light brown with dark brown spotted patterns on their head and sometimes their bodies.

They prefer to inhabit sandy woodlands, farmland, coastal areas, and fields where they feed on frogs, salamanders, invertebrates, birds, and small mammals. They can use their hog-like nose to get into their prey’s burrows more easily.

3. Western Hognose Snake

Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)
Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon nasicus
  • Other Names: Plains Hognose Snake, Hognose snake
  • Adult Size: 15 to 25 inches
  • Lifespan: about 10 to 15 years

The Hognose snake is known to be one of the best pet snakes for enthusiasts since they are not fussy and are comfortable with human interaction.

They also stay relatively small and have a cute, lovable face with their tiny snout, as their name suggests.

These worm-like snakes have a small snout and a pug-like face. They are usually a light yellow or tan color with a brown spotted pattern throughout their bodies.

They are known to be pretty easy to care for in terrariums and come from dry environments with low vegetation, abundant in rocks or stones. They enjoy digging and prefer sandy areas with space to burrow.

Hog-nosed snakes like to eat frogs and toads, even poisonous ones. However, they will also feed on lizards, small mammals like birds, insects, and salamanders.

There are 3 other species of Hog-nosed Snakes in New York, including the Dusty Hognose, Mexican Hognose, and Southern Hognose Snake.

4. Eastern Milksnake

Eastern Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)
Eastern Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum
  • Other Names: Milk Snake
  • Adult Size: About 4 feet
  • Lifespan: 22 years

Milk Snakes are a species of Kingsnake that are non-venomous, friendly, docile, and beautiful to look at.

Milksnakes are tan or brown with black-brown bands and blotches that loop around the length of their body. Their skin can sometimes be a pale yellow with almost a red striped pattern, similar to the Western Milk Snake and the venomous Coral snake or a Rattlesnake, depending on the Milk Snake.

They have cat-like pupils that can look intimidating but lack the rattle at the end of their tails.

They can be found in meadows, pastures, under any artificial cover, by the edges of watercourses, by mountain cliffs, and woodlands. These carnivorous snakes feed on lizards, reptile eggs, birds and their eggs, mice, and sometimes insects.

5. Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)
Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Other Names: Watersnake, Northern Watersnake
  • Adult Size: 24 to 55 inches
  • Lifespan: 9 years

Northern Water Snakes are popular pets since they do not require much effort and are relatively safe, even around children. They can also grow fairly large in size.

They are usually dark in color, ranging from brown, tan, to gray, and have keeled scales. They also have square blotches on their backs and sides that may alternate or become bands throughout their length.

Water Snakes typically live in or near aquatic habitats which is why they are called water snakes. They like to bask on rocks by still or slow-moving water such as seasonal pools, lakes, and ponds.

You might see them swimming and hunting the waters as well.

They like to eat fish and amphibians, swallowing them whole and alive. They eat all kinds of fish species such as smallmouth bass, minnows, bullhead catfish, hogsuckers, sunfish, and brook trout.

6. Black Rat Snake

Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Pantherophis obsoletus
  • Other Names: Western Rat Snake, Black Ratsnake, Pilot Black Snake, Black Snake
  • Adult Size: 3 to 6 feet
  • Lifespan: 6 to 8 years

Black Rat Snakes are large snakes, growing up to 6 feet long. They are also the most popular type of Rat Snake to keep in America due to their docile nature, hefty size, and ability to help with rodent control.

As their name suggests, they are primarily black in color and may have faint white bands in between their scales. They usually have a white underside starting from their chins downward.

Hobbyists love these interesting creatures for their ability to help with pest control. They are called Rat Snakes, meaning they can be useful in helping you get rid of the overpopulation of rodents in your home, if needed.

This is why they are beneficial and sometimes kept by farmers.

They can be found in mountainous regions, rocky hillsides, or flat farmlands. They survive at various elevations and are actually proficient climbers, making homes in tree cavities that used to be the homes of other animals.

They consume rodents, amphibians, lizards, and also bird eggs.

These guys are considered the largest snakes in Massachusetts, measuring up to six feet long, some individuals even being as long as 8 feet.

7. Common Garter Snake

Baby Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Baby Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis
  • Other Names: Garter Snake
  • Adult Size: 23 to 30 inches; some can grow to 5 feet
  • Lifespan: 4 to 5 years in the wild; up to 10 years in captivity

Common Garter Snakes are completely harmless to humans.

These guys are usually relatively small and like to remain active during the day. These guys like to soak often, so they will require a bowl in their tank for them to soak in, especially when it comes time to shed.

Garter snakes are great snakes for beginners since they are docile and will not grow to be too large.

Common Garter Snakes can range from dark olive-green to brown or black with a distinctive yellow stripe running throughout the length of their body.

When threatened, they may let off a musk in order to ward off predators. They can be found in many places like marshes, woodlands, meadows, or hillsides.

These snakes feed on leeches, slugs, worms, small fish, amphibians, and even other snakes. They are also immune to toxic frogs that secrete toxins from their skin in order to drive away prey.

8. Eastern Ribbon Snake

Eastern Ribbon Snake on walkway (Thamnophis sauritus)
Eastern Ribbon Snake on walkway (Thamnophis sauritus)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus
  • Other Names: Ribbon Snake
  • Adult Size: 16 to 35 inches
  • Lifespan: 10+ years in captivity; wild lifespan unknown

Ribbonsnakes are the most common species of Garter Snakes there are. These shy, non-poisonous snakes make popular pets due to their many morph options and the fact that they are not dangerous to keep.

Eastern Ribbonsnakes are the best-tempered out of all the subspecies of Ribbonsnakes and can make good pets for novice snake keepers when bought from a reputable pet store where they are captive-bred, of course.

Ribbonsnakes are usually slender-bodied, tan or dark brown with prominent light-colored stripes throughout their length which is usually a bright or pale yellow.

Eastern Ribbonsnakes are semi-aquatic creatures and can be found mostly near a water source like the shorelines of rivers or lakes. They will sometimes inhabit water edges near forests or wetlands.

They are carnivorous and feed on small fish, insects, and tadpoles.

9. Ringneck

Prairie ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus arnyi)
Prairie ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus arnyi)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Diadophis punctatus
  • Other Names: Ring-necked Snake
  • Adult Size: 10 to 15 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 years in the wild; 6 years in captivity

Ringneck Snakes have slender bodies and smooth scales, ranging from black, bluish-black, greenish-gray, to olive in color. Their undersides will usually be yellow, orange, or red with a ring around their neck of the same color.

You can find these snakes in wide varieties of habitats as long as there is a lot of places for them to hide and take cover. They like making dens under woody debris.

They mainly feed on terrestrial worms, mollusks, and amphibians.

10. 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: Redbelly snake, Red-belly Snake, Copperbelly Snake, Northern Red-bellied Snake
  • Adult Size: 8 to 16 inches
  • Lifespan: 4 years in captivity; Wild lifespan unknown but predicted to be longer than in captivity

While Red-bellied Snakes are rarely encountered in the state, they still exist in the wilderness. They are just very secretive.

These small snakes can be found in swarms basking in the sun on the warm days of September to October. You can also find them in woodlands, fields, under logs, in forests, bike trails, back roads, and sphagnum bogs.

In these areas, they feed on earthworms, beetle larvae, and slugs.

People can sometimes find them out in their pesticide-free garden or just out in the wild and might want to keep them as a pet. However, they really struggle to eat when in captivity and will sometimes just outright refuse when they are removed from the wild.

They do not do well in captivity and prefer to be free to roam the lands as they please. Although they aren’t hard to obtain in the wild, they might not be the best pet to keep if you are planning to have them for long since they do not do well away from their natural habitat.

Due to this, you might not run into them as often in the wild since they like to stick to their spaces. They are not as tolerant of populated areas.

It’s not hard to identify these snakes since they really do live up to their name with their flashy red or orange undersides. Their bodies might be a dark steel grey, black with a blue tint, or copper brown. Some may also have two dark stripes along their sides or a thick, light-colored band down the middle of their backs.

While they will usually first curl their tails or flee in defense before they try to bite, their little nibble probably won’t affect you anyway.

While they are small and beautiful, this does not mean they will make a good pet since they do not usually survive long in captivity.

11. DeKay’s Brownsnake

Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi)
Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Storeria dekayi
  • Other Names: Brown Snake, DeKay’s Brown Snake
  • Adult Size: approximately 13 inches
  • Lifespan: 7 years in captivity; unknown in the wild

Brownsnakes are not shy and humans commonly encounter them. They can make great pets for beginners due to their size and gentle nature. They are also quite easy to feed.

These non-venomous snakes are usually brown in color, as their name suggests, but can also come in a yellowish, red, or grayish-brown tone.

They will typically have two rows of either darker or lighter spots which might also be linked, making it look like a collar or middorsal streak down the side of their head. Underneath each of their eyes may also be a small, dark spot.

These markings may also not appear on some individuals.

Their undersides will either be white or tan.

They like to reside in various woodlands, more commonly in wet areas like swamp edges or wetland borders. They like to roam the litters of abandoned fields, lowland hardwoods, prairies, and oak savannas.

They are also often spotted in residential areas or urbanized territories.

In their habitats, they will consume small invertebrates like earthworms, slugs, and snails with their specialized jaws and teeth. They may also eat beetles and salamanders if they come across one.

12. Eastern Worm Snake

Eastern Worm snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus)
Eastern Worm snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Carphophis amoenus amoenus
  • Other Names: Wormsnake
  • Adult Size: 7 to 11 inches
  • Lifespan: 4 years

In general, worm snakes are not ideal pets because of their timidness. They like to remain hidden in their substrate, which can make it hard to keep track of their health.

These shy reptiles dislike being handled and will wiggle around in your hand. You may also feel them press against you with a bit of a strong force.

Eastern Worm Snakes are shiny, scaley, and light pink or brown with a pointy tail. The color of their body can range from a light to darker brown and may have pink or white undersides, similar to a worm.

You can find these snakes in habitats that are damp or near woodlands such as hilly woodlands or farmlands nearby. They prefer grassy or wooded hillsides near streams of water.

During dry periods, they will burrow down underground where the soil is moist in order to get the dampness they need to survive.

These worm snakes eat exclusively earthworms, swallowing them completely alive. This makes it easy for them to fall prey to other animals that eat earthworms.

Although it is rare, they might also sometimes eat insect larvae or slugs.

13. Queensnake

Queensnake (Regina septemvittata)
Queensnake (Regina septemvittata)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Regina septemvittata
  • Other Names: Queen Snake
  • Adult Size: up to 24 inches
  • Lifespan: over 19 years in captivity; wild lifespan unknown

While these snakes are friendly, docile, and take well to handling, they are listed as an endangered species and protected under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Queensnake is similar in appearance to the Garter Snake, which causes much confusion when identifying them. They are slender with dark olive or brown bodies with cream or pale yellow stripes along each side of their bodies.

They can be spotted in mountainous regions and sometimes along river drainages. They like to make homes near streams where they hide under rocks and find opportunities to bask in the sun when they can.

They mainly feed on soft, just-molted crayfish without hard exoskeletons.

14. Smooth Green Snake

Juvenile Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
Juvenile Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Opheodrys vernalis
  • Other Names: Green Snake
  • Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 years

While you can find these snakes out in the wilderness, they are rarely encountered due to their timid nature.

Smooth Green snakes can make great pets for any owner that is a little squeamish about feeding them dead rodents. These guys will mostly eat insects like spiders, moths, ants, snails, slugs, worms, and spineless caterpillars.

However, it is said that they do not make great pets since they are way too timid for human interaction. However, they are harmless and some enjoy being handled.

They can be found in open woods, stream edges, marshes, and meadows. They thrive in moist, grassy areas.

As you can already tell by their name, these snakes will be a bright green, which can range in shade. They stay relatively small and may have a pale yellow underside with beady eyes.

These are not the easiest snakes to keep captive since they are very anxious and easily stressed out.

Venomous Snake Species in New York

Here is a list of the most venomous snakes that roam the state:

15. Northern Copperhead

Northern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
Northern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
  • Other Names: Highland Moccasin, Copperhead Snake
  • Adult Size: 24 to 36 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 29 years

Copperheads aren’t aggressive towards humans unless provoked, which is why bites from them are somewhat rare, even in areas that they have been spotted. They are quite rare to spot anyways.

These large snakes are tan in color with copper or rusty-looking, chestnut, blotches all throughout their bodies which look like spilled coffee spots. These pit vipers have a distinctively triangular-shaped head.

They can be found in open woodland areas, deciduous forests, rocky outcrops, and hillsides.

These snakes are carnivorous, eating mostly small rodents like mice. They also consume other smaller snakes, lizards, insects, and amphibians.

16. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) resting on rock
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) resting on rock
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus
  • Other Names: Canebrake Rattlesnake, Banded Rattlesnake
  • Adult Size: 6 feet
  • Lifespan: Anywhere from 10 to 30 years in the wild; 30+ years in captivity

Rattlesnake bites are very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency. However, they are also somewhat timid creatures, meaning they are not often spotted.

These vipers are usually gray or yellow-brown in color with dark brown blotches all or bands throughout their body and a brown, yellow, or copper stripe running down the length of their back.

They can generally be found in bluffs, croplands, rugged deciduous forest terrains, rocky ledges, and dense woodlands with closed canopies. They like to move around during different seasons and females will move to rocky terrains when they are pregnant for higher temperatures.

Timber Rattlesnakes feed mainly on smaller mammals but will also eat the occasional bird if they feel like it.

17. Eastern Massasauga

Eastern Massasuauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
Eastern Massasuauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Scientific Name: Sistrurus catenatus
  • Other Names: Massasauga Rattlesnake
  • Adult Size: about 2 feet
  • Lifespan: 14 years

The Eastern Massasauga is protected by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. This means that they cannot be taken from the wild and are not to be messed with.

A bite from one of these vipers will not be one you will forget and could also kill you since they are one of the most venomous snakes in the United States. Although, they are quite shy creatures which is why bites don’t happen too often and are considered a rare occurrence.

Massasaugas are tan or gray in color with bright brown blotches along their back and smaller blotchy patterns along their sides.

In the wilderness, they choose to live in open, rocky areas since these environments will allow them to bask freely with multiple options. They may also be found in deserts, forests, prairies, and marshes.

They like areas where they can take cover from bird predators and where prey is abundant. They will eat insects, lizards, smaller snakes, and amphibians but they mainly feed on smaller mammals.

When hunting, these vipers are the stalking type, sitting and waiting for their prey. They have special pits near each of their eyes that are heat-sensitive and will alert them when prey is near.

They will then inject them with a little bit of their toxic venom before swallowing them whole.

Conclusion

New York may not seem like the place to have snakes, but if you live in the state, you might already be familiar with some of the names listed here. If not, we hope that maybe you learned about another cool snake to add to the books.

Let us know in the comment section below what you think about New York’s snake laws and whether or not you are a fellow New Yorker with a pet snake!

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