Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's

Common Snakes

Banded Water Snake
Black Racer
Bluestripe Garter Snake
Eastern Indigo Snake
Peninsula Ribbon Snake
Pigmy Rattlesnake
Red Rat Snake
Ringneck Snake
Rough Green Snake
Water Moccasin
Yellow Rat Snake

How to tell the difference between a Banded Water Snake (non-poisonous) and a Water Moccasin (poisonous)


Photographs of Corkscrew's common snakes



Banded Water Snake

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris

Description: to 5 feet; adult (top photo): dark heavy body with reddish vertical bands; bands become less noticeable with age; lower jaw is whitish with dark "tortoise shell" pattern; thin dark stripe from eye to corner of mouth; when disturbed, it can flatten its body giving the head a triangular shape so it looks like a Water Moccasin, and when cornered will defend itself by striking and biting; it is NOT poisonous; immature (bottom photo): dark heavy body with white spots in addition to bands;

Food: mostly small fish but also frogs, tadpoles, and salamanders; during dry downs, frequently forms loop with body in shallow water, trapping small fish inside loop where it can catch them easier

Habitat: always around water, preferring shallow still areas; will sun on top of water lettuce, cypress knees, and fallen logs near the water

Range: peninsular Florida into southeastern Georgia

Breeding: anywhere from nine to almost five dozen young born live from June through August

Similarities: frequently mistaken for Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth); moccasin has wider vertical bands on body, a very wide dark stripe around and through the eye, and no "tortoise shell pattern" on the lower jaw; the moccasin also has a protruding ridge over the eye and a much more angular jaw line, giving the head a definite triangular appearance from above

Other common names: Florida Water Snake, Florida Banded Water Snake


Black Racer

Coluber constrictor priapus

Description: to 6 feet; adult (top photo): very slender body; gun-metal black above and below except for a clear white to cream colored chin and a little down the underside (bottom photo); from the top it appears to be all black; reddish eyes; immature (middle photo): slender, dark on top with spots along side; newborn are a mottled white and reddish-brown; both newborn and immature have the white chin; each time it sheds, it becomes blacker and turns completely black when it gets to about 2-1/2 feet in length

Food: small rodents, frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and other snakes; in spite of the scientific name "Coluber constrictor," it does not kill prey by constriction but swallows it live

Habitat: frequently near water but also in brush, trash piles, roadsides, swamps, suburbia; it is the most common snake in residential neighborhoods where it preys on mice and rats; it spends most of its time on the ground, but it's a good tree climber and may be found in shrubs and trees where the calls of birds draw attention to it; a fast agile snake, its first option when threatened is to flee, but if cornered, it will coil and shake its tail trying to resemble a rattlesnake although it has no rattles, then it will strike and will bite

Range: Florida mainland and the lower Keys

Breeding: lays up to 25-30 eggs in soil or rotten wood during June and July; hatchlings emerge in late July to September

Similarities: the Eastern Indigo Snake is also all black but much larger and heavy-bodied; the Black Swamp Snake has a vivid red underside; the Striped Crayfish Snake is black only on the very top and tan on the side and underside; the Eastern Mud Snake is a coral color with dark splotches on the underside and chin

Other common names: Southern Black Racer


Bluestripe Garter Snake

Thamnophis sirtalis similis

Description: to 4 feet; single stripe down the top and prominent pale blue stripe/coloration down each side; scales keeled (they stand out a little) giving it a rough look

Food: toads, frogs, fish, and other small aquatic animals; will also eat mice and young birds when the opportunity presents itself

Habitat: frequently found near water, although not a true water snake

Range: peninsular Florida

Breeding: up to eight dozen live young from June through September

Similarities: Eastern Garter Snake tends to be turquoise or blue-green with light stripes and black spots arranged in rows down its side rather than the light blue; Peninsula Ribbon Snake is much smaller and more slender, has a longer tail, and lacks the spots between the stripes

Eastern Indigo Snake

Drymarchon corais couperi

Description: to 8 1/2 feet, the largest North American snake; large heavy bodied snake; all black above and pale bluish-white below; scales have dark blue iridescence which is most noticeable just after shedding; sometimes its chin can be reddish; it has two speeds -- slow and food;

Food: toads, frogs, rodents, other snakes including venomous ones, birds; it grabs the prey in very strong, powerful jaws, drapes its heavy body over the prey to hold it still, and then swallows it alive

Habitat: moist areas in pine woods, dry glades, hummocks, flatwoods; it is a burrower and frequently shares Gopher Tortoise and other burrows and with rattlesnakes and other animals

Range: all of Florida including lower Keys

Breeding: lays 5-11 eggs in April or May

Notes: the Eastern Indigo Snake is listed as a THREATENED species and its populations are dwindling due to over collecting and habitat destruction; it is illegal to capture or own the snake without a permit from Florida Fish & Game, and it cannot be sold commercially


Peninsula Ribbon Snake

Thamnophis sauritus sackeni

Description: to 3 feet; a very thin relative of garter snakes; color varies, but it's usually brownish to green on top with a tan stripe down the back and one on each side, and white or very pale on the underside; the orangish eyes seem large compared to the small head; it has a long thin tail that is up to 1/4 of its total length

Food: insects, frogs, small fish, salamanders, and other small pond creatures

Habitat: marshes, shores, stream edges, swamps near water; it's semi-aquatic, and climbs in shrubs and other low vegetation; it's frequently seen basking in vegetation near water and on the boardwalk railing near water

Range: all of peninsular Florida

Breeding: up to 20 live young in July to August

Similarities: the Eastern and Bluestripe Garter Snakes are larger and thicker and have spotting along the sides

Other names: Southern Ribbon Snake


Pigmy Rattlesnake

Sistrurus miliarius barbouri

Description: to around 20 inches; usually gray with black blotches on its back and sides; sometimes there is an orange stripe down its back beneath the black blotches; it has tiny rattles at the end of its tail, but they are so small that they're barely audible and they frequently break off; a black stripe runs back from the eye; when basking, it may look as though it has "spread out" or flattened its body

Food: mice, lizards, frogs, small birds

Habitat: wet or moist locations, grass or woodlands, abandoned buildings, weedy areas around the bases of trees; can climb and might be found in boots and fronds of cabbage palms

Range: all of Florida except the Keys

Breeding: up to 30 live young in August to September

Other names: Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake

Notes: its venom is very potent, but because of the snake's small size, it delivers a very small dose; the bite is unlikely to cause death but it can cause tissue destruction and infection as well as intense swelling and pain


Red Rat Snake

Elaphe guttata guttata

Description: normally to about 4 feet, but some longer ones have been found; there are many color "phases" of the Red Rat Snake; the most familiar is bright reddish-orange saddle-shaped blotches on a reddish-brown to brownish-yellow background; however, a gray phase exists in Southwest Florida where the saddle-shaped blotches are brownish and the background is a grayish-brown

Food: mice and rats which are killed by constriction and then swallowed head first

Habitat: the Red Rat Snake is a ground snake but it can climb; it is most active at night and can be found in both wet and dry wooded areas including around houses where it eliminates rats and mice

Range: all of Florida

Breeding: lays up to 21 eggs in June to July

Similarities: the Yellow Rat Snake is yellow with brown horizontal stripes and no blotches

Other names: Corn Snake


Ringneck Snake

Diadophis punctatus punctatus

Description: to 12 inches; Ringneck Snakes are small, pencil-sized snakes; black or dark gray back and sides; yellowish to reddish ring around the neck with a very small break right at the top; underside varies from creamy to rich yellow becoming more orangish near the tail

Food: earthworms, slugs, amphibians, small lizards, newborn snakes

Habitat: under bark or logs in woods; near water; frequently found around houses and gardens under mulch and leaf litter; it's totally harmless

Range: all of Florida

Breeding: lays up to 10 eggs in June to August; eggs hatch August to September

Other names: Southern Ringneck Snake


Rough Green Snake

Opheodrys aestivus

Description: to 3 feet; the Rough Green Snake is the only thin bright-green snake in Florida; bright green above and yellow to yellowish-green below; long narrow tail; called "Rough" Green Snake because scales keeled (they stand out a little)

Food: crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, small invertebrates

Habitat: bushes, small trees, vines; great climbers, they are rarely on the ground;

Range: all of Florida

Breeding: lays up to 12 hard eggs July to August which hatch August to September; eggs are "adhesive," sticking to the surface where they were laid


Water Moccasin

Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti

Description: to 6 1/2 feet; a large, heavy-bodied pit viper with a large triangular head; coloration varies -- older moccasins tend to be uniformly black or brown (photo at top); young are usually banded with a dark color on a tan to orangish background (middle photo) and look similar to Copperhead, but Copperhead range doesn't extend to Southwest Florida; a wide, dark stripe on head runs through the eye and there is a ridge extension that extends over eye (bottom photo); threat posture includes opening mouth, which is all white (hence the name "cottonmouth"); swims with head out of water;

Food: mostly frogs, but also fish, other amphibians, small mammmals and turtles, and other snakes

Habitat: mostly around rivers, streams, ponds, or other water, but also in pine woods and other dry habitats; basks on fallen log or rock or sometimes roads near canals or water; they don't really like clear open rivers and lakes but prefer to stay in murkier water

Range: all of Florida

Breeding: up to 15 born live in August to October

Similarities: other water snakes don't have the broad, triangular head and the ridges over the eyes which make them invisible from above; no other water snakes also have the wide dark band along the side of the head through the eye

Notes: very venomous bite, and aggressive when approached; doesn't strike as often in the water as on land because can't get the leverage for a good strike, but it will do so if accidentally stepped on

Other names: Cottonmouth, Florida Cottonmouth

Yellow Rat Snake

Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata

Description: to 7 feet; dull golden-yellow with four broad dark stripes running horizontally (the length of its body); the juvenile Yellow Rat Snake has blotches rather than stripes but it is still yellowish; yellowish-orange eyes and black tongue

Food: mostly rats, but also birds, squirrels and other small mammals; a powerful constrictor

Habitat: trees, shrubs, hollow logs, stumps in both dry and wet woodlands; also an able swimmer (bottom photo); the best tree-climbing snake in Florida

Range: most of peninsular Florida and Keys

Breeding: up to 40 eggs in June to July in hollows in logs or sometimes earth cavities; eggs hatch in late August to October