Introduction Throughout history, no other group of animals has undergone and sur- Snakes: Descriptions, Pictures and 4. Corn snake (Elaphe guttata guttata): vived such mass disdain. Today, in spite of the overwhelming common 24”-72”L. The corn snake is a ➣ Wash the bite with soap and water. Snakes have been around for over 100,000,000 years and despite the Range Maps state endangered species found odds, historically, 23 species of snakes existed in New Jersey. However, sense and the biological facts that attest to the snake’s value to our 1. Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon): ➣ Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than your environment, a good portion of the general public still looks on the in the Pine Barrens of NJ. It heart. most herpetologists believe the non-venomous queen snake is now 22”-53”L. This is one of the most inhabits sandy, forested areas SNAKES OF extirpated (locally extinct) in New Jersey. 22 species of snakes can still snake as something to be feared, destroyed, or at best relegated to common snakes in NJ, inhabit- preferring pine-oak forest with be found in the most densely populated state in the country. Two of our glassed-in cages at zoos. ing freshwater streams, ponds, an understory of low brush. It ➣ lakes, swamps, marshes, and What not to do if bitten by a snake species are venomous, the timber rattlesnake and the northern All snakes can swim, but only the northern water snake and may also be found in hollow queen snake rely heavily on waterbodies. Northern water bogs throughout the state. logs, railroad ties, and founda- venomous snake copperhead, and the remaining twenty species are non-venomous. Commonly observed basking tions of old build- NEW JERSEY snakes are frequently found swimming in waterways and bask- communally on logs and rocks New Jersey’s snake populations have declined during the past 50 ings as well as ing on embankments, and are often mistaken for water moc- ➣ Do not attempt to draw venom from a wound. years for a number of reasons. Habitat destruction in the form of along stream banks, this snake under boards ➣ casins, which do not occur in New Jersey. is often misidentified as NJ’s and logs. This snake is locally called the “red rat snake.” Do not cut the wound or apply ice to the bite. urbanization has been a primary cause, but pollution, changing land ➣ ➣ use, commercial collecting and human persecution have all contributed Snakes do not chase people. Male snakes may defend their northern copperhead. The The ground color is variable, ranging from orange to Do not apply a tight bandage. If medical assistance will take ground color is brown or gray with darker brown, reddish, brown to gray. Orange, red, or brown blotches outlined in longer than 30 minutes to reach you, wrap a bandage 2-4 to the reduction of our snake populations. The copperhead is a state mates during the breeding season by moving towards a preda- tor, including people, while the female escapes by moving in or black bands on the neck and back. The darker pattern black extend the down the length of the back and some inches above the wound to attempt to slow the venom trans- species of special concern and the rattlesnake is listed as endangered. color forms wider bands along the back and slightly nar- individuals may have stripes rather than blotches. They fer through the bloodstream. Be careful not to tie the band- In fact, the timber rattlesnake is listed as endangered or threatened in the opposite direction. Otherwise, snakes will try to move away rower bands on the sides, resembling a “reverse” hour- have weakly keeled scales. Five to 18 eggs are laid in age too tightly, constricting blood flow. You should be able all but one northeastern state. Aside from the listed venomous snakes, from people. glass pattern. Older water snakes are much darker, usual- July or August, hatching in late August–September. ➣ Snakes do not prefer to be around people. To snakes, people are ly brown or black with faint remnants of pattern while juve- to slip a finger beneath the tied bandage. additionally listed state species include the threatened pine snake and niles’ patterns are typically more vivid. They have keeled 5. Northern scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea copei): predators and should be avoided. 1 the state endangered corn snake. ➣ scales. They give birth to live young in late summer. The 14”-32 /4”L. The northern scarlet All snakes perform an integral ecological role in their control of All snakes can bite if handled . . . just as all animals can bite if snake is an uncommon snake in Requesting assistance with a handled. Animals bite to protect themselves when they feel water snake often exhibits a highly defensive disposition venomous snake rodents and insects and are food to other animals such as raccoons, and can inflict a painful, non-venomous bite if handled. NJ. It inhabits sandy soils usually opossums, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, other snakes, hawks and threatened. hiding under logs, boards, or ➣ 2. Eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum): debris. It may also be found in or The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame owls. Even mice will nibble on snakes when they are inactive during Rattlesnakes do not travel in pairs. Although rattlesnakes den Species Program (ENSP) has developed the Venomous Snake communally and may share early-season basking areas, they 24”-52”L. The milk snake is a near damp woodlands. It resem- hibernation. common species found in NJ. It bles the poisonous coral snake of Response Team (VSRT) to respond to human/venomous snake Snakes are not slimy or wet as some people think, but are actually spend much of their active season alone. inhabits various habitats includ- the southern U.S., however, the interactions and increase an awareness of our responsibilities for ➣ The Division of Fish and Wildlife did not re-establish rat- dry to the touch. Most have a small head compared with the rest of the ing fields, wooded areas, river- Adult above; Juvenile below northern scarlet snake is not poi- living in venomous snake country. The VSRT is a group of trained body, but the jaws are loosely hinged so that the mouth can be extend- tlesnake populations in New Jersey. Timber rattlesnake popula- banks, and rocky hillsides. It sonous. Its red bands do not volunteers that includes animal control officers, park rangers, local tions have been steadily declining due to wanton killing, illegal may be found in barns or other extend all the way around the ed to swallow objects several times larger than the snake’s own head. buildings that house rodents. It body and are bor- and state police, and other select individuals that are on-call to The non-venomous snakes in New Jersey have a single row of small, collection, and more recently, habitat destruction and encroach- remove venomous snakes from private lands upon request. They ment. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and many of our non-ven- is often mistaken for NJ’s north- dered by black with even-length teeth which point slightly backward to help hold prey. The ern copperhead or timber rat- white or creamy- also educate landowners about snakes and instruct them on how to venomous rattlesnake and copperhead have two large, hinged, hollow omous snakes can not be relocated as they have a strong affin- tlesnake. The yellow interspaces. live safely in snake country. Snakes are removed from harms way fangs, one on each side of the upper jaw, which may inject venom ity to their home ranges and most likely will not survive in ground color is They have smooth and returned to nearby areas away from human habitation. unfamiliar territory. creamy gray with scales. This snake when they strike. The venom is used to immobilize and kill small prey, red or brown rarely comes above Landowners that encounter timber rattlesnakes or northern cop- mostly rodents. Both of the venomous snakes are members of the pit perheads on their property and wish to have them removed should Controlling snake presence blotches outlined ground except at viper family, which have (an) elliptical pupils and the characteristic in black along the ➣ night. contact ENSP immediately through the DEP Hotline: heat-sensing pit that is located between the eye and the nostril. Keep your lawn mowed short to deter snake presence and so back and sides. The venomous snakes of New Jersey are feared the most due to mis- you can view potential snake activity at a glance. Commonly, a Y- or V-shaped light patch can be found on 6. Eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula): 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337) ➣ Keep your property free of mulch and debris piles. Mulch is the nape of the neck. They have smooth scales. Six to 24 36”-82”L. This snake is only information and misunderstanding. Each year many non-venomous eggs are laid in June and hatch in late August. found in the southern region of snakes are misidentified as venomous snakes and are killed needless- composting material that generates heat as it decomposes, cre- NJ and is considered common. It ly, but all snakes in New Jersey are protected under the NJ Endangered ating a warm, inviting basking area for some snakes. Debris 3. Coastal plain milk snake integrade (Lampropeltis t. inhabits borders of swamps and and Nongame Species Conservation Act (N.J.S.A. 23:2A-1-13), which piles attract rodents which attract snakes. triangulum x L.t. elapsoides): streambeds and can often be ➣ In southern NJ, the eastern milk makes it illegal for anyone to kill, collect, or harass our native snake Remove any food that attracts rodents. found under logs and debris, but ➣ snake intergrades with the scar- will frequently bask species. Often, the non-venomous northern water snake is misidenti- Some snakes, such as garter snakes and milk snakes, can often Do’s and don’ts when living or recreating be found near homes and in basements. During the summer let snake and is referred to as in the open. It is in venomous snake country fied as the water moccasin (cottonmouth) which does not occur in the “coastal plain milk snake.” frequently referred New Jersey. months, homeowners should make certain that all cracks and The milk snake integrade is a to as the “chain Always keep your dog on a leash when in state parks and forests. It is extremely rare for the average citizen to encounter a rattlesnake crevices in the house and outbuilding foundations are sealed. rare species snake” because of ➣ This is a state law created to protect your pet, NJ’s native wildlife or copperhead due to their elusive nature, preference for interior forest Although not scientifically proven, some people believe the use found in southern its shiny black or dark brown color patterned with large NJ. It inhabits and other park visitors. Dogs are active, playful and are instinctive habitat, small, localized populations, and sensitivity to human distur- of aromatic cedar mulch annually deters snake presence on white or cream-colored links. They have smooth scales. hunters. Dogs may kill ground nesting birds, small mammals, rep- their properties. similar habitats The kingsnake will eat timber rattlesnakes as well as other bance. The chance of being bitten by a venomous snake in New Jersey as the eastern reptiles in addition to rodents, birds, and frogs. Three to 24 tiles, and amphibians by running off-trail. They may chase black is far less than being struck by lightening. Those who have been bitten milk snake. It may be mistaken for NJ’s timber rattlesnake. eggs are laid in June and hatch in August. bears into other hikers or back to you or they may encounter a ven- in the last half-century, in most cases have attempted to handle the Keeping snakes in captivity The ground color may be yellow with orange blotches out- omous snake, potentially risking a snake bite. snake, or more rarely, were walking through venomous snake territory ➣ It is illegal for anyone in New Jersey to keep any venomous lined in black along the back and sides. There is typically Stay on the trails when hiking where it is easier to see wildlife snake in captivity unless it is at an educational or rehabilita- no Y- or V-shaped patch on the nape of the neck. They in the dark with inappropriate footwear. However, while still rare, have smooth scales. in your path. If you live in venomous snake country remain on increased development and encroachment into venomous snake territo- tive facility or zoo. These facilities must have the appropriate paved paths, wear leather shoes and use a flashlight at night to scan ry has increased the likelihood of human-venomous snake interactions. permit(s). the walkway in front of you and to the sides. Never walk barefoot! ➣ It is illegal to capture any snake, or other animal, from the wild Do not reach into your shrubs, wood piles or rock walls without Dispelling Myths and keep it as a pet in New Jersey. ➣ first thoroughly looking for the presence of snakesusing a stick or From historical times to present day Hollywood movies, snakes All owners of captive snakes require permits. The permits can broom handle to push vegetation aside. have been portrayed as evil, aggressive, and sneaky creatures. be obtained through the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Exotic and Nongame Permits Office (www.njfishandwildlife.com). 7. Northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus): grass when they are threatened. Black racers will 12. Northern brown snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi): 16. Northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii): 19. Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus): hourglass shape, wider bands 3 48”-100”L. The northern pine eat newborn rattlesnakes as well as other wildlife, 9”-20 /4”L. A common snake of 10”-30”L. The northern ringneck 18”-40”L. A common snake of on the sides of the snake and snake is a state threatened and may climb trees to access bird nestlings for NJ that may be found in moist is found statewide in woodland NJ that resembles the eastern narrower bands across the back. species found in the Pine food. They are rather defensive snakes that fre- woodlands and lowland habitats and rocky areas garter snake. This snake can be The head is a solid copper color. Barrens of NJ. It is limited to quently inflict a painful, non-venomous bite when and in rural and semi-suburban typically under found in semiaquatic areas such Young copperheads have a yel- sandy habitat as it burrows handled. Eggs are laid in June or July and hatch in areas, this snake commonly logs, bark slabs as bogs, swamps, and streams. low-tipped tail underground for shelter and egg late-August. hides under logs, and stones. The The ribbon snake is distin- that acts as a laying. It is a large snake with rocks, and debris back is dark with a guished from the lure for prey. white, gray, or cream ground col- on the ground. A golden neck collar garter snake by They have weak- oration marked vertical dark bar a and the belly is its longer tail, a ly keeled scales. 10. Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos): Copperhead neonate with black or 1 short distance plain yellow, usu- much more slen- No one has ever 20”-45 /2”L. This snake occurs died from a copperhead bite in NJ. These snakes will not dark brown blotches. The blotches are more clearly statewide, except in metropoli- behind the eye and two rows of dark spots down the back ally dotted with black. They have smooth scales. One to der body, and side stripes. The ground color is black or chase you, but they will defend themselves if they feel defined towards the tail of the snake. They have keeled tan areas, and is considered are key identifying marks. The ground color is light to dark eight eggs are laid in June and July and hatch in late brown and the stripes are bright yellow. The underside is threatened. Keep your distance! They give birth to 6-17 scales. The pine snake will hiss and defend itself vigorous- uncommon in most parts of the brown or gray, sometimes with a slightly yellowish or red- August-early September. pale yellow to pale green with a brown stripe on the edge young in mid-August to early October. ly when threatened and can inflict a painful, non-ven- state. It inhabits a variety of dish tone. They have keeled scales. Eleven to 18 young are of the belly and the first two scale rows on the sides. They omous bite if handled. The pine snake climbs trees readi- born in August and September. 17. Southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus): have keeled scales. Three to 20 young are born in August. habitats with sandy substrate. 7”-18”L. This snake is almost 23. Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus horridus): ly but spends a considerable amount of time burrowing. The most common feature of the 1 Eggs are laid in June and hatch in August; young measure 13. Northern redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata identical to the northern ring- 20. Smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis): 35”-74 /2”L. This is one of two hognose snake is its upturned 7 VENOMOUS SNAKES found in from 15-18” at hatching. occipitomaculata): neck, inhabiting much of the 11 /8”-26”L. This snake is in NJ’s snout, which is used for burrow- 8”-16”L. Common to the state, same environments but has a northern region found primarily NJ. A state endangered species, 8. Black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta): ing. Coloration and pattern vary but difficult to find, the northern greater fondness for moist habi- in grasses, meadows, open three populations remain: in NJ’s 34”-101”L. This is NJ’s largest considerably, but commonly, the redbelly is a small brown, gray, tats. It, too, can be found under woods, and other northern region along the snake. Like the black racer, the ground color ranges from a gold- or black snake with a red, woody or rocky debris. The two terrestrial habi- Kittatinny Ridge and within the black rat is common throughout en to rusty gray with brown or unmarked underside and three differences in this snake’s tats where it Highlands region and in south- the state in rural and semi-sub- black rectangular shaped pale spots on the neck just appearance from the northern blends easily. ern NJ within the Pine Barrens. urban areas and is found in very blotches. They have keeled behind the head. These spots ringneck is a dark mark cutting This snake does In northern NJ, the snake is similar habitats. The adult black scales. The hognose snake will occasionally run together. The through the neck not display the climbing ability of the rough green snake. found in rocky, wooded areas rat is a long, plain black snake mimic venomous snakes when belly is usually red, but may be ring and the It has smooth, light green scales with a white, yellow, or and will hunt in open and dense with a white chin and throat and threatened by puffing up its yellow, orange, or underside of the pale green belly. They have smooth scales. The eggs are forests. In southern NJ, the a white or pale yellow belly. It is body and flattening its head. If more rarely blue- southern ringneck laid in July and hatch in September. snakes inhabit swamps and a slightly more bulky snake than the attacker persists, the hog- black. They have is marked with a pine-oak forests, hunting in open Adult above; Juvenile below the racer and when the skin is nose snake will roll over and play keeled scales. series of black 21. Rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus): and dense forests and occasion- dead, emitting an 5 distended, some skin between This snake can be half-moons run- 20”-45 /58”L. This snake is arbo- ally basking on dirt roads. The the scales may appear white. awful smell to found in hedge- ning down the real, frequently found in vegeta- color varies: 1) yellow phase: Juvenile black rats are common- deter the preda- rows, stone walls, midline. They have tion overhanging water in NJ’s ground color is yellow to brown, ly misidentified as timber rat- tor from eating it. fields, bogs, and smooth scales. southern region and is consid- with black or dark brown jagged tlesnakes as they These snakes wood lots. ered common in its limited “V-shape” bands and blotches have a gray usually spend 18. Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalus): range. It is very similar in towards the head; 2) black most of their time 5 ground color with 18”- 51 /8”L. The garter snake is appearance to the smooth green phase: similar pattern to yellow dark brown or above ground the most common snake found snake except that its scales are phase, but the dark brown to rather than under objects. Four to 46 eggs are laid in June 14. Eastern smooth earth snake (Virginia valeriae valeriae): in the state and around resi- keeled giving them a rough tex- gray blotches on 1 black ground color obscures 7”-13 /4”L. This snake is uncom- the back. They and July, and hatch in late-August through September. dences. They can be found in a ture. It is often called the “vine much of the pattern. The head is mon occurring primarily in the have weakly keeled scales. These snakes are climbers, variety of habitats including snake” because unmarked and the last few inch- 11. Queen snake (Regina septemvittata): Piedmont and Coastal Plain and may be found in trees or rock crevices. Five to 24 woods, fields, meadows, and of its slender, es of an adult’s tail are solid black or dark brown. 3 regions. It spends eggs are laid in June or July and hatch in late-August. 4 near water. Occasionally garter light green body Some timber rattlesnakes may be completely black. 15”-36 / ”L. This snake is an most of its life uncommon snake of NJ and snakes will hibernate under the and plain white, They have keeled scales. No one has ever died from 9. Northern black racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor): under debris in or siding of a home’s south facing yellow, or pale a timber rattlesnake bite in NJ. In fact, there are no believed to be extirpated from near deciduous 34”-77”L. Common throughout our state. They have keeled wall. These snakes are the first green belly. Three reported incidents of bites other than to those han- the state in rural and semi-subur- forests. It has to emerge in NJ, and can often to 13 eggs are dling the snakes. The snakes will scales. Historically, the snake smooth gray or ban areas, the black racer can be was at the edge of its range be seen in mid-March during laid in July and defend themselves if they feel threat- found in fields or woodlands, and reddish brown warm spells. The adult garter snake’s ground color varies from olive to August, hatching ened. Keep your distance! Six to 10 inhabiting a narrow area adja- scales with a white belly. It may display black dots or a faint occasionally around residential cent to the Delaware River from brown to black and typically has three stripes, one on the in August and young are born in late August to mid- gardens. The adult black racer is light stripe on the back. They have weakly keeled or back and one on each side extending from head to tail. The September. September. All sightings should be just south of Trenton to smooth scales. Two to four young are born in September. a long, slender, fast black snake Gloucester County. The snake stripes are usually yellow, but may be greenish, brownish, reported to the Endangered and with a white chin and throat. dwells where crayfish are avail- 15. Eastern worm snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus): or bluish, and stripes are occasionally absent. There is Nongame Species Program. Learn Juvenile black racers are com- 1 3 often a black or reddish, checkered pattern between the more about the venomous snake able and abundant, including 7 /2”-14 /4”L. The eastern worm 22. Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen): monly misidentified as timber stripes which is more distinguishable on juveniles. The belly Adult above; Juvenile below streams and snake is found in moist soil 22”-53”L. This is one of two response team on our website. rattlesnakes as they have a gray is pale yellow to pale green. They have keeled scales. rivers with rocky under stones, boards, and rotten VENOMOUS SNAKES found in ground color with dark brown or Young are born in late summer, an individual can give birth bottoms. They logs and burrows underground. NJ. It is an uncommon snake in gray blotches on the back with to about 30 young and large adults can give birth to more would be found Distributed statewide in rural its range (state species of spe- What to do if bitten by a venomous snake smaller spots on the sides. The than 30. in the water or and suburban areas, this snake cial concern) inhabiting NJ’s pattern fades and the ground If you encounter a venomous snake, you should keep a safe distance basking along is seldom seen. It northern region extending as far color becomes darker with age. (at least 5 feet) and keep young children and pets at your side for con- the shoreline, or resembles the south as the Sourlands of They have smooth scales. Black trol. Tell older children to stay further back. under nearby eastern smooth Hunterdon and Somerset coun- racers mimic rattlesnakes by rocks or debris. The young are born in September. earth snake with ties northeast through localized Venomous snakes may administer a dry bite without injecting vibrating their tails on leaves and its dull brown ground color. It has a very round body with areas within Somerset and north venom. This may be done when the strike is in defense rather than for a pointy head and tail. The underside and the first one or through western Bergen County. acquiring food. If you are bitten by a venomous snake: two rows of scales on the lower sides are pink. They have It inhabits rocky fields, berry thickets, woodlands, farmlands, and even ➣ Stay as calm as possible. smooth scales. One to five eggs are laid in June and hatch old mulch piles. The copperhead is two shades of copper or a reddish ➣ Call 911 immediately and do not attempt to drive yourself to the in August. brown, the lighter background color with the darker pattern forming an hospital.