Latin name: Pituophis catenifer sayi
Size: 50 to 75 inches
This is known to be one of the largest of the native snake species in Missouri, as well as many other states across the US, with just one snake beating it in potential length: the eastern indigo snake. Also known as gopher snakes, bull snakes regularly inhabit old gopher burrows and spend more than half of their lives beneath the ground. They are more active during the day than night, but seem to be particularly active first thing in the morning and late afternoon-evening. Bull snakes can eat a wide range of foods, including birds and bird eggs, but it is more common for them to feed on rats and mice, alongside other small mammals.
Midland Brown Snake
Latin name: Storeria dekayi wrightorum
Size: 9 to 13 inches
This is one of the smallest snakes found in the state of Missouri, rarely growing to more than 10-12 inches in length. As with other brown snakes, this subspecies enjoys eating earthworms and other insects found underground in moist, soft substrate — and this is where it spends a lot of its time. You will need to head into moist woodlands to find this snake, usually hiding beneath the loose leaves on the ground, or underneath rocks and branches or logs. The midland brown snake can be found across almost all of the state, but there is a region in the western part in which the midland brown snake is replaced by another subspecies: the Texas brown snake.
Texas Brown Snake
Latin name: Storeria dekayi texana
Size: 10 to 19 inches
In the westernmost third of the state of Missouri, the midland brown snake is replaced by this subspecies — the Texas brown snake. This snake has dark eyes, and a body that is small, slender, and often light brown or a light reddish-brown in colour, and is commonly found underneath plant pots, garden furniture, logs, rocks, and similar items in backyards, residential parks, and other urban spaces. Non-venomous and non-aggressive, this snake will happily rid your garden of earthworms, spiders, insects, and slugs, and even small frogs, such as the cricket frog.
Latin name: Masticophis flagellum flagellum
Size: 42 to 60 inches
Found across most of the southern parts of Missouri apart from the very south-easterly regions, the eastern coachwhip is the state’s biggest species. Typically, this snake grows to a maximum length of 60 inches, but there have been specimens that measured in at double that. Named because of the way the colouration and scales look along the body - almost like a braided whip, it is usually a rich brown colour, almost black, and with a darker head. This snake is very fast and when cornered or threatened, and will thrash around wildly while shaking its tail in the same manner as a rattlesnake. Despite the name, this snake does not use its tail to whip to predators, however.
Latin name: Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster
Size: 25 to 40 inches
It is quite uncommon to encounter an eastern copperhead, formerly known as the osage copperhead, in the wild, but this snake does inhabit most of the state of Missouri — and any bites that do occur are a painful process. It is recommended to seek urgent medical attention if you believe you have been bitten by any venomous snake, and definitely if you start to feel tingling, numbness, nausea, or severe pain. The copperhead has a copper-red coloured head, just as the name suggests, and the rest of the body has an hourglass pattern adorning it, with a lighter shade of tan behind darker cross bands. The sides heading down into the underbelly also have darker blotches.
Latin name: Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
Size: 30 to 45 inches
Although we don't recommend getting close enough to look, the white inside of the mouth of this snake gives it its name: it is white and looks a little like cotton. It uses this as a method of defence, opening its mouth wide to predators, to scare and confuse them into leaving it alone. The main body of this snake is usually a very dark colour, either black or a very dark brown shade, and younger specimens can have a darker-coloured but faded pattern painted along the back. This tends to darken and turn almost invisible as the snake gets older.
Graham’s Crayfish Snake
Latin name: Regina grahamii
Size: 18 to 28 inches
You will find the Graham's crayfish snake across most of the state of Missouri, with the exception of a small area, in the Ozarks. Like other crayfish snake subspecies, this one lives in water and tends to eat mostly crayfish, although other prey items commonly found around bodies of water are also on the menu. The colours of this snake can cover a wide range, from light, bright yellow shades to olive-greens. The sides are usually adorned with stripes, again in a light tan or cream colour. It is also known by a number of other names, including prairie water snake, striped moccasin, and Graham’s queen snake.
Latin name: Coluber flagellum flagellum
Size: 42 to 6 inches
The eastern coachwhip is one of the longest snake species that you'll find in the state of Missouri, and it is a snake that is every bit as fast as the whip-name would imply. In fact, a speedy retreat is how this snake normally deals with predators, including humans, although it can sometimes display other defensive signs. This includes shaking its tail, coiling its body into an attacking-ready position, and hiss loudly. This snake doesn't constrict prey, despite its large size. Instead, it chases, grabs, and then swallows whole prey items such as rodents, other small mammals, other snake species, lizards, birds, their eggs, and big-bodied insects. The coachwhip has even been observed slamming prey against the ground in a bid to knock it unconscious before attempting to eat it.
Rough Earth Snake
Latin name: Haldea striatula (Formerly known as Virginia striatula)
Size: 7 to 10 inches
The rough earth snake is commonly confused with another snake also found in Missouri — the brown snake, also known as the DeKay’s snake. The earth snake is usually smaller in length and width than the brown snake, and the earth snake also tends to lose the darker markings found across the back and neck as it matures. Aside from that, this snake doesn't usually have markings and is dark brown, deep rust-red, almost black, or dark gray in colour. The earth snake has teeth, but it doesn't like to use them on humans or other large predators. It is more likely to try and avoid a fight and even has a musky fluid to excrete when it cannot do that.
Western Smooth Earth Snake
Latin name: Virginia valeriae elegans
Size: 7 to 10 inches
Coming in a range of tan, brown, and rust-red shades, the western smooth earth snake is smooth (as the name suggests) and has no real visible markings, with a pale, often yellow-tinged underbelly. They commonly inhabit the areas around rivers and streams, in old fields, around the edges of forests or woodlands, and even in residential areas where lots of vegetation is present, it is unlikely that you will spot one. They are very secretive, and they rarely spend time above ground, preferring to hide away under structures, rocks, trees, furniture, and similar.
Latin name: Tantilla gracilis
Size: 6 to 8 inches
The flat-headed snake is probably the smallest snake you're ever likely to encounter in Missouri, although it spends a lot of time moving around underground, so there's a chance you wouldn’t spot it at all. Only really present in the southern half of the state, the belly of this snake is usually pink or pinky-red, with a body that is devoid of patterns and a red, brown, almost black, or tan colour. Most specimens have a slightly darker colour on the head than on the rest of the body, and as the name implies, the head is quite flat when compared to other species.
Eastern Fox Snake
Latin name: Pantherophis gloydi
Size: 4 to 8 inches
Found in eastern wetlands of Missouri, such as swamps and marshes, as well as the flatlands around them, the eastern fox snake is a harmless snake that has an array of defensive actions that it would rather do than fight a human. The tail, for example, is shook from side to side, mimicking the actions of the rattlesnake. Certain markings and colours of fox snake can also make it appear like the copperhead — another venomous snake. Fox snakes are beneficial to humans because they keep rodent populations down, and they also feast on other small mammals, small birds, their eggs, lizards, frogs, and other amphibians.
Western Fox Snake
Latin name: Pantherophis vulpinus
Size: 35 to 70 inches
The western fox snake earned its name from one of its many defence mechanisms: it releases a musky fluid that smells unpleasant to predators and is said to resemble that of the red fox. It also uses its tail to ward off predators, by shaking it back and forth in the same way that a rattlesnake would. Unfortunately, this often leads to humans believing they are faced with a venomous rattlesnake rather than a non-venomous western fox snake, resulting in the reptile's death. This snake actually proves to be very beneficial to humans, especially in terms of keeping pest populations down. As well as feasting on rabbits, frogs and birds, rats and mice also make up a larger part of its diet.
Eastern Garter Snake
Latin name: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
Size: 18 to 26 inches
A thin snake that inhabits a wide assortment of territories, the eastern garter snake is more commonly found in areas that are close to a body of water, such as forests or damp woods along rivers, streams, creeks, swamps, and marshes. It feeds on small fish, mice, and other small snake species, but more commonly: earthworms, salamanders, roads, frogs, newts, and tadpoles. Some experts believe that they are great in keeping the populations of these species in check. This particular subspecies of garter snake is the most common one found in Missouri, inhabiting across almost all of the eastern half of the state.
Plains Garter Snake
Latin name: Thamnophis radix
Size: 15 to 28 inches
You may find the plains garter snake along bodies of water in Missouri, which is where they will find their main food source: frogs, salamanders, newts, tadpoles, and small fish. This can include ponds, streams, rivers, and creeks, plus the prairies and meadows surrounding them. The feature that sets the plains garter snake aside from other species/subspecies of garter snake is the bright orange or yellow stripe that runs down the centre of the back. As with other garter snakes, there are two stripes either side of this, often in another colour, such as green, yellow, gray, or blue.
Red-Sided Garter Snake
Latin name: Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis
Size: 18 to 26 inches
The red-sided garter snake can be found alongside other garter snakes in the state of Missouri, but this one takes the place of the eastern subspecies in the western half. Just as the name implies, this snake has red sides, in the form of patches or bars, that separate yellow or white stripes on a background. The main food source for this snake species is frogs, specifically chorus and wood frogs in Missouri, so you'll find them in places where they are found in abundance — wetlands and marshy regions.
Smooth Green Snake
Latin name: Opheodrys vernalis
Size: 14 to 20 inches
This snake species is both green and smooth, just as the name would suggest, and can be found in green areas, with lots of grass. This can include swamps and marshes, meadows, open prairies and woods, and around the edges of bodies of water, preferably areas with grasses but not a lot of shrubbery. The smooth green snake population in Missouri is said to be an isolated one, and the snake is secretive and shy in nature. Combine that with the green camouflage and there's a chance you wouldn’t spot this relatively small snake even if you were close to it.
Rough Green Snake
Latin name: Opheodrys aestivus
Size: 22 to 32 inches
If you were to cut the state of Missouri into thirds, horizontally, you would find the rough green snake in the bottom two-thirds, in leafy territories that help the namesake green snake camouflage. Areas with plenty of green brush and vines are preferable, especially those that are close to bodies of water, with high numbers of insects, including caterpillars, spiders, crickets and grasshoppers. This snake is very slender, and usually has an underside that is green, yellow-green, or yellow-cream in colour. As the name implies, the scales are slightly rough to touch, setting it aside from the smooth green snake which is also found in the state.
Variable Ground Snake
Latin name: Sonora semiannulata semiannulata
Size: 8 to 12 inches
Despite the varied bright and bold colours that give the variable ground snake, also known as the ground snake and western ground snake, this snake is not a venomous one, and it is not really known to be aggressive. (Although all snake species have the ability to be aggressive when provoked.) Often patterned in nature, this snake can look, at quick glance, very much like the coral snake, with black and orange or bright red bands. That tends to be the common colour pattern in the state of Missouri, but it can also be light brown or gray.
Dusty Hog-Nosed Snake
Latin name: Heterodon gloydi
Size: 15 to 25 inches
If you find yourself in southeastern Missouri, specifically in the expanse of sandy prairies and savannas, you might just find yourself a dusty hog-nosed snake — rare, but repeated sightings have been reported. You wouldn't necessarily know it was the dusty subspecies of this hog-nosed snake, however; the two are practically the same in colouration, and it is just the geographical location that really tells the two subspecies apart. As with most hog-nosed snakes, this one eats a wide range of foods, including snakes, lizards, their eggs and/or juveniles, toads, frogs, mice, rats, and even the occasional small mammal.
Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake
Latin name: Heterodon platirhinos
Size: 20 to 33 inches
The eastern hog-nosed snake is the largest of the three hog-nosed subspecies found in the state of Missouri, also referred to as the hissing viper, the spread-head, the deaf adder, or the puff adder. Found throughout most of the state, it can come in a wide assortment of colours, including orange, yellow, brown, gray, tan, caramel, or even close to olive. The main food source for this snake is frogs, salamanders and toads, but it’s quite common for it to turn to rats and mice if there is an abundance of them in the area, or if the primary food sources are not readily available.
Plains Hog-Nosed Snake
Latin name: Heterodon nasicus
Size: 16 to 25 inches
If you head into the far north and northwest of Missouri, you’ll enter the territory of the plains hog-nosed snake; a tan or gray-coloured snake that has a hog-like nose (upturned), and a mostly dark/black underside. It is actually not known whether or not this particular subspecies of hog-nosed snake still inhabits Missouri, especially as the plains and dusty subspecies are incredibly similar, but unconfirmed sightings have been reported. The nose, shaped like a shovel, enables this snake to burrow around underground, in soft and sandy soils, and the colouration makes it quite a difficult snake to spot against the landscape.
Eastern Black King Snake
Latin Name: Lampropeltis nigra
Size: 36 to 45 inches
If you head into the very southeasterly corner of Missouri, you may come across the eastern black king snake — a black snake (mostly) with lighter, white or yellow spots on each of its scales. This particular subspecies of king snake is often mixed up with the speckled king snake, but the speckled one can be slightly longer. It is on rocky hills that you'll probably find this snake, in dry areas, but it does also extend into open woodlands and forested areas. It primarily feeds on snakes, even venomous ones, as well as rats, mice, and lizards.
Speckled King Snake
Latin name: Lampropeltis holbrooki
Size: 36 to 50 inches
Just as the name would lead you to believe, the speckled king snake is very much speckled, and it is often referred to as the salt and pepper snake because of the way it looks. The main body of the snake is almost always black, but on each of the scales, there is a dot or patch that is very different in colour – often bright yellow or white. The underbelly of the snake is also very bright – yellow, sometimes with a tinge of orange. This snake is a powerful constrictor and chooses to feed on lizards, rodents, mammals, birds, frogs, and even other snake species. It finds these in moist or wet territories, such as rivers, swamps, and moist fields or woodlands.
Latin name: Tropidoclonion lineatum
Size: 8 to 15 inches
The lined snake comes to life mostly at night, choosing to spend the day sleeping beneath garden and vegetative debris, rocks, boulders, fallen logs, wood piles, and other structures, including concrete pathways. An adaptable species, you are just as likely to find this snake in rocky and open woodlands as you are in glades and prairies – and in Missouri, it is the most westernmost area of the state that you’re likely to find it. This snake eats earthworms and little else, although other insects are sometimes consumed if earthworms aren’t available. The rain tends to bring this snake out in the same way that it brings out earthworms – and it is not uncommon to see lined snakes in daylight, in the open, after a good rainy spell.
Latin name: Sistrurus catenatus
Size: 24 to 30 inches
It is in the northeastern parts of Missouri that you may find the eastern massasauga rattlesnake – a snake that didn’t officially become its own recognised subspecies until 2011. This snake usually has a row of large spots or blotches, in black or brown, running down the length of the body, and it is classed as a threatened or endangered species in almost all of the states in which it inhabits. This is bad news for humans as it is one of the most important snake species for keeping rodent populations down.
Latin name: Sistrurus tergeminus tergeminus
Size: 18 to 30 inches
This venomous snake is endangered in Missouri — a species of special concern, also known as the massasauga rattlesnake, and (confusingly because the name is also used for another subspecies of this rattlesnake) the eastern massasauga. Numbers of this snake have seriously declined over recent years, and it is now believed that they are only present in the very northwest and north-central part of the state, in wet prairies and lowlands that are close to marshes, lakes, rivers and streams. This is where they feed on deer mice, voles, lizards, and garter snakes.
Red Milk Snake
Latin name: Lampropeltis triangulum
Size: 20 to 30 inches
Sometimes in colourings and markings that mimic the venomous coral snake, the red milk snake is also confused with the corn snake in Missouri. A black and white checkerboard-style underbelly sits beneath a pale tan or cream-coloured body, decorated with darker patches of orange-red or bright red. The patches are often outlined with a much darker colour, giving the snake quite a striking look. A secretive snake, it lives in forest edges, mostly deciduous or coniferous forests, as well as a range of other habitats. Being adaptable, it seems to thrive just as well in swamp lands as it does in dry woodlands, and it feasts on a wide variety of foods, so there is always something on the menu — rodents, lizard and bird eggs, the lizards and birds themselves, and even smaller, venomous snakes.
Western Mud Snake
Latin name: Farancia abacura reinwardtii
Size: 40 to 60 inches
In the very southeasterly regions of Missouri, you may encounter this iridescent, black snake, known as the western mud snake or hoop snake. It is a semi-aquatic species, so you're more often than not going to find it in or close to a body of water, such as a swamp, or anywhere else where it's primary prey can be found — salamanders, specifically the western lesser siren. Fish, tadpoles, frogs and toads are on the menu, too, but it definitely has a preference for salamanders. The underbelly of this snake is a striking pinky-red or orange colour, with occasional black markings. Because of this, it is often confused with other snakes, such as the eastern coachwhip. The latter spends less time in water than the mud snake.
Latin name: Regina septemvittata
Size: 13 to 30 inches
The queen snake is a semi-aquatic, natatorial snake, which means that you are more commonly going to spot it close to a body of water. The number one food on the menu also helps you to narrow down the habitat options: the queen snake eats mostly crayfish, and young crayfish at that — to avoid those sharp pincers. Conditions need to be just right for this queen snake to thrive, so if you see a snake that resembles this one, far away from a body of water, it is unlikely to be this particular species.
Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer
Latin name: Coluber constrictor flaviventris
Size: Up to 60 inches
The eastern yellow-bellied racer is one of eleven species of racer snake and is sometimes known as the blue racer in the state of Missouri. Despite the blue nickname, this subspecies comes in a vast assortment of colours, including its namesake blue, brown, tan, olive, dark gray, or even just completely black. * This snake can be found across most of the state of Missouri, with the exception of the very southeastern regions, where a different subspecies - the southern black racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) - takes its place. Generally, the daytime-active eastern subspecies can be found in areas of tall brush or grass.
Southern Black Racer
Latin name: Coluber constrictor priapus
Size: 20 to 55 inches
This is a fairly common snake in the southeastern regions of the state of Missouri, and it's also quite an active one, so there's a chance that you will actually see this species out and about, in the wild. As the name suggests, this is a usually black snake, and it is often confused with the indigo snake, as well as other black or mostly-black species. What sets the southern black racer apart from those is the chin area: it is white, whereas the indigo snake (for example) has more of a brickish-red coloured chin.
Black Rat Snake
Latin name: Pantherophis obsoletus
Size: Up to 70 inches
The black rat snake is also known by a host of other names, including black snake (a name also confusingly given to a few other species of snake), pilot black snake, and western rat snake. This snake is not just a great swimmer, it also has great climbing skills, too; so you are commonly going to find it in areas of forest or woods. It eats pretty much every prey item it comes across and can overcome/constrict, including rodents, snakes (other species and its own), squirrels, birds and their eggs, small or juvenile opossums, lizards, frogs, and many more.
Great Plains Rat Snake Latin name: Pantherophis emoryi
Size: 24 to 36 inches
Some may know the great plains rat snake as the Emory’s rat snake in Missouri, or the house snake, because it is commonly found in residential areas — old and abandoned buildings, sheds, garages, barns, and similar. It is a mostly nocturnal snake, using the cover of darkness to hunt and feed on - as the name implies - rats, alongside mice, birds, and also bats, in woodlands and forests. During the day, it sleeps underneath piles of rocks or logs, fallen trees, or (in residential areas) underneath sidewalks, decking, stairs, etc.
Latin name: Crotalus horridus
Size: 36 to 60 inches
Also known as the canebrake rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake is fairly typical of venomous snakes, with a narrow neck and wider head. Although usually sporting a dark crossband pattern across a lighter olive-brown or creamy-brown colour, the species can be a wide range of colours and, in some cases, can even look almost entirely black. The underbelly is paler, and the tail is almost always black, with the infamous light-coloured rattle at the end. The timber rattlesnake mostly eats small mammals, such as squirrels and rodents; small and young birds, along with their eggs; and other snakes, mostly the garter snake.
Western Pygmy Rattlesnake
Latin name: Sistrurus miliarius streckeri
Size: 16 to 24 inches
In southern Missouri, you might find a western pygmy rattlesnake, although this species is both very small and well-camouflaged, so you could walk right by one without ever noticing in many cases. Although known for its rattling tail, the first thing this snake is likely to do after spotting a predator is freeze and hope its camouflage does the trick. The tail itself is often a yellow colour on the pygmy rattlesnake, designed to look like an insect or worm of some kind and lure in unsuspecting prey — frogs, lizards, mice and rats.
Northern Red-Bellied Snake
Latin name: Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata
Size: 8 to 10 inches
With the exception of the counties in the northwest part of Missouri, you can find the northern red-bellied snake across most of the state, in areas that offer lots of ground shelter, such as rocks and logs, and with a moist environment. This is where it finds plenty of soft-bodied insects to eat, such as snails, slugs, and earthworms. A non-aggressive and non-venomous snake, this one isn't likely to bite when handled, but it is known to ‘play dead' when threatened, and also to release a fluid from the back end that has a smell capable of driving off predators.
Northern Ribbon Snake
Latin name: Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis
Size: 18 to 26 inches
The northern ribbon snake, just one subspecies of ribbon snake found in Missouri, is a semi-aquatic species. It spends a lot of its time in the water of swamps, marshes, lakes, streams, and rivers, or close by, in the low-growing vegetation. This is where it finds most of its food: frogs and other amphibians, small mammals on land around the edges of water, eggs, and sometimes small fish and crustaceans. A speedy and shy species, this snake is not venomous and not aggressive towards humans. In fact, it’s more than likely going to retreat far away as soon as it sees you coming.
Western Ribbon Snake
Latin name: Thamnophis proximus
Size: 17 to 50 inches
Living up to its ribbon namesake, the western ribbon snake is a thin, long snake that is made up of mostly tail. As much as a third of this snake's body is tail — one of the longest in the snake world. The rest of the body is a dark colour usually, very dark olive-green, brown, or completely black; and it has a series of stripes that run down the length of the body: one on each side, plus one on the top. These stripes are light and bright, normally a yellow-cream shade. Around the head is black, and the underside is usually a creamy colour, tinged with either yellow or light green.
Mississippi Ring-Necked Snake
Latin name: Diadophis punctatus stictogenys
Size: 10 to 14 inches
Venomous: No (Yes, but it doesn't affect humans)
Although the ring-necked snake is a venomous species, the venom is so mild that it doesn’t affect humans at all, so it is classed as a non-venomous species. There are a few different subspecies of ring-necked snake found across North America, but in the most south easterly regions of Missouri, you may spot the oh-so-secretive Mississippi ring-necked subspecies, which replaces the prairie subspecies present across most of the state. This particular subspecies tends to be smaller than the rest, and it also has slightly different markings — a narrower band around the neck, plus rows of tiny black dots running along the length of the yellow underbelly.
Prairie Ring-Necked Snake
Latin name: Diadophis punctatus arnyi
Size: 10 to 17 inches
Venomous: No (Yes, but it doesn't affect humans)
The ring-necked snake has been given its name because of a bright, light-coloured band that sits around the neck — quite obvious against the usually dark and slim body, often black, dark gray, or dark brown in colour. The underside of the snake is much lighter, often cream-yellow, and towards the tail end, the cream-yellow can turn into more of a bright orange shade. The bright shades on the underside of the snake's body is what it’ll use to defend itself, coiling up and revealing the colours — this explains the fade from yellow to orange towards the underside tail end. Aside from that, this snake is relatively harmless and rarely bites when handled.
Northern Scarlet Snake
Latin name: Cemophora coccinea copei
Size: 14 to 20 inches
Scarlet snakes are commonly found in areas that have soft or sandy soils, including sandhills, dry prairies, pine flatwoods, and other, open forested spaces. Little is known about the reproductive cycle, because it is such a secretive species, but it is thought to mate during spring/summer (March through June), before laying up to 13 (average is 5-8) eggs in the middle of summer, that usually hatch at some point during the fall. It isn’t uncommon for females to lay two clutches in a single year. Northern scarlet snake populations in Missouri are disjunct, and populations are thought to be declining. It is now classed as a species of special concern.
Western Pygmy Rattlesnake
Latin name: Sistrurus miliarius streckeri
Size: 16 to 25 inches
The western pygmy rattlesnake is just one subspecies of pygmy rattlesnake found in south-central states of the USA, and it is also referred to by a number of other names — ground rattlesnake, Strecker's pygmy rattlesnake, and just pygmy rattlesnake. The pygmy rattlesnake, as the name implies, is a much shorter rattlesnake than other species, and it also has a much smaller rattle. This is still capable of making a bit of noise to ward off potential attackers, however. With the exception of breeding season, this snake is a solitary one, and they keep to small home ranges, not far from an underground burrow.
Broad-Banded Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia fasciata confluens
Size: 22 to 36 inches
This snake gets its name because it has broad bands that run across the body, often giving it a tortoiseshell-like appearance. Usually a mixture of black with lighter coloured bands, often gray-yellow, it can also be a dark reddish-brown colour, or dark brown. It is in the very southwestern areas in the state of Missouri that you are likely to encounter this snake, frequently spotted basking in the heat of the summer sun, along branches that dangle over the water. This is where they wait and fish for food — catfish, sunfish, perch, newts, toads, frogs, crayfish, and many others.
Brown Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia taxispilota
Size: 30 to 60 inches
Although the brown water snake is more likely to flee from you than fight you, the bite from a female is said to be incredibly painful, although non-venomous. This is a very large snake found in Missouri, although it spends a lot of time in or around water bodies, such as swamps and rivers, which they slither into and swim away when they sense a predator coming, such as humans. Often a brown or light-brown colour with darker checkerboard patches all over the body, this snake looks very much like the venomous water moccasin and is killed by property owners frequently as a result.
Diamondback Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia rhombifer
Size: 30 to 50 inches
The diamondback water snake, also known as the northern diamondback, is a heavy, stout, and dark-coloured snake, usually green-brown in colour, with a diamond-like pattern in black. It lives in and around swamps and other water bodies, where it hangs down from branches to fish. This snake will deliver a painful bite when intentionally bothered or handled, and it is known to snap and bite at dogs, cats, and other pets when they come together. This is only when the reptile doesn’t have a method of fleeing, however; that will always be its first choice, usually through the water.
Green Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia cyclopion
Size: 30 to 55 inches
The green water snake, also known as the Mississippi or Florida green water snake, is a common aquatic snake found across the southeastern US, but it is believed that the species has now been extirpated from Missouri. When it was still in the state – and if, indeed, it still is – it is in the southeastern part of the state that it will likely dwell. This snake isn’t a venomous one, but it can be very aggressive when threatened, and more so during breeding season. As with many other types of water snake in Missouri, the green water snake is needlessly killed because they are incorrectly thought to be venomous cottonmouths. Although the two species can look quite similar, the water snake is slender and lighter, and it has a smaller head.
Northern Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia sipedon
Size: 20 to 55 inches
This is the most common water-based snake found in the state of Missouri, also known as the midland water snake, common water snake, and banded water snake. It has bands, as the latter name might lead you to believe — often darker, thin bands over a red-brown or rich-brown body. It looks very similar to the venomous cottonmouth and it is not unusual for people to get the two confused. This snake will bite to defend itself if it feels under attack, and although not venomous, people have said that the bite is incredibly painful. As well as biting (and/or slithering away), this snake also releases a musky fluid from its anal glands that smells unpleasant to predators.
Plain-Bellied Water Snake
Latin name: Nerodia erythrogaster
Size: 24 to 40 inches
This thick-bodied, solid-colour snake isn't a solid colour for its entire life; juvenile snakes often have darker cross-band markings that run across the body. They darken and lose the markings as they age, turning into a dark, almost black colour, tinged with brown or deep green. As the name suggests, this snake is a mostly aquatic one, and it feeds on mostly aquatic prey — crayfish, small fish, toads, frogs, newts, salamanders, and tadpoles. Although it is capable of spending long periods of time on land, far away from a body of water, it is common to find the snake in slow-moving rivers, ponds, wetlands, lakes, and other similar spots.
Western Worm Snake
Latin name: Carphophis vermis
Size: 7 to 11 inches
The western worm snake can be found across almost all of Missouri, with the exception of a few spots: in the central-north of the state, as well as in the far south-eastern regions. From the top, the western worm snake could almost be confused for an actual worm. It’s a brown-pink shade across the top of the body, with an almost-spiked tail (that is much more foreboding than it looks), but when you see the underbelly of this species, the worm comparisons stop; it is a very bright pink-red colour.