Louisiana Snakes Species Guide: Complete Catalog + Safety Advice

Louisiana snakes range from colorful and venomous coral snakes to harmless Western ribbon snakes.

wild scarlet kingsnake on top of pine cone
The scarlet kingsnake is only one of Louisiana’s beautiful snake species.

In this article, we’ll help you learn the basics about snakes in the region.

In Short

This identification guide will teach you:

  • The basics of snake identification
  • Which venomous snake species live here
  • Which snake species are most common here
  • How to tell a venomous snake species from a harmless one
  • How to deal with a snake if you happen to come across one in the wild

We’ll also share pictures of snakes in Louisiana and useful resources for dealing with and learning about snakes.

Snake Identification Basics

When you’re learning to identify snakes, there are a few main characteristics to look out for, namely:

  • Length
  • Color and patterning
  • Head and pupil shape
  • Locality and habitat type

Length

Unless you’re trying to identify baby snakes in Louisiana, the snake’s length is one of the most defining characteristics.

Most snake species only reach a certain length. The Brahminy blind snakes are tiny snakes that are easily distinguishable from larger harmless species.

Similarly, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake reaches lengths of up to five feet, while the timber rattlesnake won’t reach more than 40 inches.

The pygmy rattlesnake won’t reach more than 24 inches.

By knowing how big a snake is, you can easily rule out other species that reach bigger or smaller lengths.

Locality and Habitat Type

The next essential characteristic that you should take note of is where you find the snake, both in terms of habitat and geographic location.

Most snakes have a well-defined distribution range that you can find by looking up the species in question.

A good distribution map for any species will tell you whether it occurs in the area where you found the snake.

Most snakes also prefer a specific habitat. The Cottonmouth likes to live in areas with fresh water, while the timber rattlesnake prefers forested regions.

Animals like the ratsnakes and garter snakes are exceptions. They live wherever there’s plenty of food.

Head and Pupil Shape

The shape of a snake’s head and pupils are also indicative of species. Pit vipers have slit-shaped eyes, while most other species in the region have round pupils.

Coral and milk snakes have short, rounded heads, while the hognose snake has an odd, blunt face, and pit vipers have broad, flattened heads.

Most groups of snakes have a head shape that’s distinctive somehow.

Color and Patterning

While coloration and patterning vary significantly, even within a species, they’re still useful.

If you’re trying to identify black snakes in Louisiana, you naturally won’t turn to the coral snake, green snake, or scarlet snake.

Both the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the diamondback water snake have diamond patterns, but they’re so different in form as to be distinctive.

Alone, none of the characteristics is enough for identification. But, by combining them all, you can quickly reach an accurate conclusion.

Quickly Identifying Venomous Snake Species

Although Louisiana has a plethora of venomous species, it’s relatively easy to tell them apart from the harmless snake species.

The Eastern coral snake and Texas coral snake have unique banding patterns which make them stand out.

Pit vipers like the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and venomous Cottonmouth also have distinctive forms.

Let’s take a closer look at how to identify the potentially dangerous species.

Most of the Venomous Snakes in Louisiana are Vipers

Most of the harmful snakes in Louisiana are pit vipers, which makes them easy to identify. They share the following characteristics:

  • A robust, well-built body
Pit viper in a defensive pose with mout open
Pit vipers have broad, robust bodies.
  • Large eyes with slit-shaped (elliptical) pupils
Copperhead Snake eye close-up
The slit-shaped pupils of pit vipers set them apart from most snakes.
  • Neutral colors that blend well with leaf litter and similar habitats
juvinal cottonmouth looking up
The neutral colors of pit vipers help them to blend in.
  • A wide, slightly flattened head with heat-sensing pits between the eyes and the nostrils
Timber Rattlesnake close-up with dead leaves
The heat pits and flat head of a pit viper are distinctive.
  • Tail scales that have adapted to form a sound-producing organ that resembles a rattle (only in a rattlesnake)
timber rattlesnake coiled up with its rattle showing
All rattlesnakes have adapted scales that can stridulate (make a sound).

Identifying Coral Snakes

The Coral snake is as different from a pit viper as night from day. Coral snakes have the following characteristics:

  • Round pupils
  • Round, bullet-shaped heads
  • Bright red, yellow, and black bands that proceed uninterrupted to the snake’s belly
Eastern Coral Snake on sand
Coral snakes have unique coloration that sets them apart.

If you’re new to identifying snakes, it’s easy to mistake a Texas coral snake for a milksnake, scarlet snake, or kingsnake. However, they look significantly different once you know them.

U.S. residents have a nursery rhyme to help identify coral snakes: Red next to black, friend of Jack; red next to yellow, kill a fellow.

kingsnake and coral snake different banding
The kingsnake and coral snake have different banding.

Coral snakes typically have yellow bands between the black and the red bands. Similar species typically have red bands next to black ones.

Did you know? Although people often ask about poisonous snakes in Louisiana and non-poisonous snakes in Louisiana, these terms are inaccurate.

Poison refers to something that kills you if you eat it. Snakes have venom, which they inject directly into your body.

The correct terms for snakes are venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes.

Which Snakes Live in Louisiana?

Louisiana sports the following venomous snakes:

  • Pit Vipers
    • Timber Rattlesnake – Crotalus horridus
    • Eastern Copperhead – Agkistrodon contortrix
    • Northern Cottonmouth – Agkistrodon piscivorus
    • Western Pygmy Rattlesnake – Sistrurus miliarius streckeri
    • Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake – Crotalus adamanteus
  • Coral Snakes
    • Texas Coral Snake – Micrurus tener
    • Eastern Coral Snake – Micrurus fulvius

Most of the harmless snakes in the region fit neatly into one of a few main groups, including:

  • Mudsnakes
    • Rainbow Snake – Farancia erytrogramma
    • Red-bellied Mudsnake – Farancia abacura
  • Kingsnake
    • Prairie Kingsnake – Lampropeltis calligaster
    • Scarlet Kingsnake – Lampropeltis elapsoides
    • Eastern Milksnake – Lampropeltis triangulum
    • Western Milksnake – Lampropeltis gentilis
    • Speckled Kingsnake – Lampropeltis holbrooki
    • Eastern Black Kingsnake – Lampropeltis nigra
  • Water snakes
    • Midland Water Snake – Nerodia sipedon pleuralis
    • Southern Water Snake – Nerodia fasciata
    • Plain-bellied Water Snake – Nerodia erythrogaster
    • Gulf Saltmarsh Water Snake – Nerodia clarkii clarkii
    • Diamond-backed Water Snake – Nerodia rhombifer
    • Mississippi Green Water Snake – Nerodia cyclopion
  • Corn Snakes and Ratsnakes
    • Red Corn snakePantherophis guttatus
    • Western Ratsnake – Pantherophis obsoletus
    • Slowinski’s Corn Snake – Pantherophis slowinskii
  • Garter Snakes
    • Eastern Garter Snake – Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
    • Western Ribbon Snake – Thamnophis proximus
  • Brownsnakes
    • Red-bellied Snake – Storeria occipitomaculata
    • Dekay’s Brownsnake – Storeria dekayi

Most of the other harmless snakes in the region are singular representatives of their genera:

  • Coachwhip – Masticophis flagellum
  • Scarlet snake – Cemophora coccinea
  • Rough Earthsnake – Haldea striatula
  • Rough Greensnake – Opheodrys aestivus
  • Ring-necked Snake – Diadophis punctatus
  • Smooth Earthsnake – Virginia valeriae
  • Louisiana Pinesnake – Pituophis ruthveni
  • Glossy Swampsnake – Liodytes rigida
  • Brahminy Blindsnake – Indotyphlops braminus
  • Eastern Worm Snake – Carphophis amoenus
  • North American RacerColuber constrictor
  • Pine Woods Littersnake – Rhadinaea flavilata
  • Graham’s Crayfish Snake – Regina grahamii
  • Eastern Hog-nosed Snake – Heterodon platirhinos
  • Southeastern Crowned Snake – Tantilla coronata

Common Snakes of Louisiana

According to iNaturalist, the top of the common snakes of Louisiana chart includes the following:

  1. Banded Watersnake – Nerodia fasciata
  2. Western Ribbon Snake – Thamnophis proximus
  3. Northern Cottonmouth – Agkistrodon piscivorus
  4. North American Racer – Coluber constrictor
  5. Diamondback Watersnake – Nerodia rhombifer

Garter Snakes

These snakes, which go by both Gartersnakes and Garter snakes, are also known as ribbon snakes, thanks to their long thin shape.

Garter Snake with its tongue out on top of dead leaves
Garter snakes are fairly common habitat generalists.

Scientific Name:

Eastern Garter Snake – Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

Western Ribbon Snake – Thamnophis proximus

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to 55 inches

Description:

Round pupils in a flaring, somewhat flattened head

A slender snake with three to five vertical stripes

Tan and brown alternate in this snake’s stripes and face

Habitat:

Habitat generalists

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

Water Snakes

Water snakes or watersnakes are common inhabitants of habitats in Louisiana where freshwater sources are present.

Water snake coiled-up
Water snakes are common around rivers and other water sources.

Scientific Name:

Midland Water Snake – Nerodia sipedon pleuralis

Southern Water Snake – Nerodia fasciata

Plain-bellied Water Snake – Nerodia erythrogaster

Gulf Saltmarsh Water Snake – Nerodia clarkii clarkii

Diamond-backed Water Snake – Nerodia rhombifer

Mississippi Green Water Snake – Nerodia cyclopion

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to 55 inches

Description:

Thick, robustly-built snakes with well-defined scales

Round pupils in a slightly beaked face with large, glossy scales

Colors range from green to brown and black, most often shades of yellow and brown

Habitat:

Habitats near rivers, marshes, and other freshwater sources

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

North American Racer

Racers are large snakes that are common throughout large parts of the United States.

Southern black racer snake sunning on top of dead leaves
The racer is a long snake that can move at high speeds.

Scientific Name:

Coluber constrictor

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to 60 inches

Description:

Round pupils in a well-defined, slightly elongated head

A robust snake with a grey to brown body and a yellow or white underside

Habitat:

Open areas like prairies and cleared fields

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

Venomous Snakes in Louisiana

There are quite a few venomous species in Louisiana. Fortunately, they divide neatly into two categories: the pit vipers and the coral snakes.

Pit Vipers

The pit vipers are ambush predators that rely on their camouflage to help them catch the small mammals and other small animals that they feed on.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake close-up
The Eastern Diamondback is the largest species of rattlesnake.
cottonmouth snake close-up
The Cottonmouth is a common snake around swamps and marshes.

Scientific Name:

Timber Rattlesnake – Crotalus horridus

Eastern Copperhead – Agkistrodon contortrix

Northern Cottonmouth – Agkistrodon piscivorus

Western Pygmy Rattlesnake – Sistrurus miliarius streckeri

Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake – Crotalus adamanteus

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to 7.8 feet

Description:

Slit-shaped pupils in a wide, flattened head, with heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils

Very bulky bodies in both the short and the long species

Typically colored with neutral colors that blend well into leaf litter and similar environments

In the rattlesnakes, the last scales of the tail are adapted to form a stridulation organ that sounds like a rattle

Habitat:

Diverse, ranging from forests to marshlands

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Venomous

Coral Snakes

Unlike the cryptically colored pit vipers, the coral snake is a brightly colored animal that flaunts its danger as a protective banner. Most animals know to leave these snakes alone.

Coral snake close-up
Coral snakes are beautiful and colorful species.

Scientific Name:

Texas Coral Snake – Micrurus tener

Eastern Coral Snake – Micrurus fulvius

Range:

Everywhere except southeast and northeast Louisiana

Adult Size:

Up to 30 inches

Description:

Round pupils in a short, rounded face

Brightly colored, with red, black, and yellow bands

Habitat:

Forested and jungle-like habitats

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Venomous

Iconic Non-Venomous Snakes in Louisiana

Apart from the venomous snake types, and common snake types, there are many other snakes worth seeing in the region. Here’s our list of some of the most iconic snakes found in Louisiana.

Kingsnakes

The kingsnake or king snake of Louisiana is a common sight. They’re habitat generalists that live anywhere with abundant prey.

Mexican black kingsnake close-up with its tongue out
Kingsnakes often live near human homes.

Scientific Name:

Prairie Kingsnake – Lampropeltis calligaster

Scarlet Kingsnake – Lampropeltis elapsoides

Eastern Milksnake – Lampropeltis triangulum

Western Milksnake – Lampropeltis gentilis

Speckled Kingsnake – Lampropeltis holbrooki

Eastern Black Kingsnake – Lampropeltis nigra

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to 60 inches

Description:

Round pupils in a rounded, well-defined face

All species have muscular bodies that are typical of constrictors

Colors vary significantly, ranging from white and black to bright red and even brown

Habitat:

Habitat generalists, often prairies

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

Louisiana Pine Snake

The Louisiana pine snake is a non-venomous snake that’s common in forested regions.

Louisiana Pine Snake close-up looking up
The pine snake is a beautiful snake that prefers forested habitats.
Image credit: David441491 (via CreativeCommons.org)

Scientific Name:

Pituophis ruthveni

Range:

Western Louisiana

Adult Size:

Up to three feet

Description:

Round pupils in a slightly flattened face with a blunted snout

Tan-yellow, with russet-brown bands and some minor speckling throughout the body

Habitat:

Forested and woods-like habitats

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

Ratsnakes

The ratsnake or rat snake of Louisiana is common around human habitations. Rat snakes feed on rodents, which are common around human homes.

corn snake close-up lying on stone with dry grass and leaves around
The cornsnake is a common species that many people keep as a pet.

Scientific Name:

Red Cornsnake – Pantherophis guttatus

Western Ratsnake – Pantherophis obsoletus

Slowinski’s Corn Snake – Pantherophis slowinskii

Range:

Throughout the state

Adult Size:

Up to four feet

Description:

Round pupils in an elongated, and slightly flattened face

Slender, but muscular, bodies as with most constrictors

Colors range from brown and tan to red and orange

May have bands, spots, or neither depending on the species

Habitat:

Habitat generalists

Venomous/Non-Venomous:

Non-venomous

What You Need to Know

There are a few things you should know that will make it easier to live around snakes, and not fear them:

  1. Snakes consider humans to be predators, not prey
  2. Snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them
  3. A snake will not hunt, chase, or pursue you unless you bother it intentionally
  4. Most of the time, snakes prefer fleeing to fighting, it’s much less stressful for them
  5. Never, ever, force a snake to stay in one place, or try to catch it, kill it, or otherwise interfere with it

Snake Safety 101

It’s easy to keep yourself safe from snakes, as long as you keep a few basic guidelines in mind:

  • When you go hiking or jogging, wear sturdy shoes
  • Always stick to the prescribed hiking and jogging trails
  • Avoid entering dense, overgrown areas where you can’t see what you’re stepping on
  • Keep your pets on leashes and your children close to you whenever you take them out into parks or similar “wild” areas

About Venomous Snakes

Around the world, most venomous snakes flee when they encounter people. Unfortunately, the venomous snakes in this region are mostly heavily-camouflaged nocturnal snakes.

They rely on camouflage to protect them, which makes them easy to step on.

Fortunately, snake bites are rarely fatal. Of the 7,000 to 8,000 bites in the US every year, only around five are fatal.

It’s important to remember that most snake bites are the result of someone accidentally stepping on a snake, or intentionally messing with one.

As long as you stick to well-used paths and don’t interfere with any snakes you encounter, you’re unlikely to ever have a problem.

If You Encounter a Snake

Very rarely will you need to do anything if you encounter a snake. Unless the snake is in danger or poses a risk to someone else, you should do nothing.

Never try to catch, kill, or mess with a snake. Simply back away to a safe distance and observe the animal if you want to. Otherwise, just walk away.

When to Call for Help

There are only two situations when you might need to call for help:

  1. If the snake has bitten you, someone else, or someone’s pet.
  2. If the snake is injured, at risk of injury, or in a place where it might injure someone.

If you face either of these situations, call the relevant authority using the information provided below.

Useful Resources

I’ve made a list of useful resources that can help you when you need to deal with a snake.

Emergency Poisoning Advice

Poison Control Center’s national hotline: 1-800-222-1222

ASPCA Poisoning Hotline: 1-888-426-4435

Snake Relocation Services

The Free Snake Relocation Directory group on Facebook can help you get in touch with professional snake handlers.

You can also contact someone from the Louisiana Wildlife Control Officer list.

Educational Resources

iNaturalist is an excellent resource for learning to identify snakes, and connecting with other snake enthusiasts.

The Louisiana Fish and Wildlife field guides can also be tremendously useful if you’re trying to identify animals.

Related Articles to Louisiana Snakes Identification Guide

If you’re interested in identification guides for other states, check out my:

You can also check out my other articles about snakes – we have vital guides that you can learn from!

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