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Identifying Black Snakes

Category Wildlife
Identifying a snake you have seen in your backyard or out hiking can be difficult. This is a guide about identifying black snakes.


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

May 10, 2009

Black snakes are a good thing! It must be Spring as our Black Snake is back. Black snakes will keep your property clean of rodents as well as Starlings (bird) that nest around the roof area of your home. They, at least ours, is not aggressive at all. This year our buddy made his grand entry in our house, that we are remodeling. He/she was hanging by his/her tail over the back door, doing twists and turns like an acrobat.


Our Jack Russell Terrier discovered it first and started barking. Knowing it was the Black snake back, we just let it do it's thing and be on it's way. Later we saw it crawling around the gutters on our shed. Personally, I know a Black snake when I see one but I can certainly appreciate some people wouldn't have a clue what a Black snake looks like compared to a venomous snake, which brings me to my question.

Is it true that Black snakes are the only type snake that will crawl around house rafters or other high places in your house? I was told that venomous snakes are considered earth snakes that may crawl high on a mountain top but not in a home. If that is true, it may save many Black snakes lives if people knew that.

Please don't kill Black snakes as they are gentle and do a good job keeping unwanted rats, mice and yes those pesty birds called Starlings.

By Suzyspinkmoon from Clinton, TN.

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February 25, 20100 found this helpful

Snakes can certainly climb trees. That's how they eat squirrels. I have seen one drop from the tree in my front yard. I don't walk under that tree anymore. I don't want to think a snake might fall on me. It was a good snake because it was a rat snake, but a very big one.

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April 4, 20100 found this helpful

Most likely, if you're in Tennessee, it's a black snake. But if you were in Florida, etc. it could be a black snake, a water snake, or a moccasin.

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April 4, 20100 found this helpful

I have been catching snakes since I was a kid. If possible, I catch and release, or if possible leave the snake where it is at if it is not a danger to anyone. If I walk up on a snake and it is about to bite me then that is a different story. I also have a snake phobia but I tried to learn as much as I could about snakes to over come the phobia. I have been bit once and almost bit another time by small snakes. When I was a kid my girlfriends dad was a snake handler and bite number 201 got him the man he worked for got bit over 2,000 times before he died.

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September 2, 20150 found this helpful

We live in eastern North Carolina (zone 7a). This year we had two big black snakes in a hickory tree next to our deck, up about 40 feet. The larger of the two, which I assumed was the male, climbed the hickory to an abandoned squirrel nest. As he went over the rim of the neck, the second snake stuck her head up. He continued into the nest, and then the two of them came back out, twining around each other. The male eventually fell from the squirrel nest, luckily landing across a branch where he lay for almost a minute (catching his breath?) and then proceeded to climb back up to the female. Another day the same snake (more than 5 feet long!) climbed the same tree, checked out the squirrel nest (no one home!) and then crawled out on a branch and waited there for a few hours. I kept checking on him, and after about 4 hours, he'd gone on his way.

It's easy to tell that this is a non-venomous snake, because the venomous ones have vertical pupils and their heads are more wedge-shaped and heavy. A lot of non-venomous snakes have heads that are barely wider than their bodies and not wedge-shaped.

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May 1, 20160 found this helpful

Indigo Snake

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November 3, 2016

I have had black snakes in my shed, as evidenced by many skins found in the spring, as well as seeing one. The problem now is that I have moved my dog beds, food and water to the shed for the winter season (4 dogs). I am afraid the snakes may bite my dogs if they come around for the food and water. I live in WV. My shed has insulation, where the snakes seem to hide. Thanks!

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November 4, 20161 found this helpful

Snakes will usually not attack any person or animal unless they are threatened or actually attacked. Your black snakes are probably rat snakes-about 6.5-7 feet. They are not venomous and always hibernate all winter, starting very soon in your area. Your dogs and snakes will usually avoid each other and rarely come into actual contact so a snake bite would be rare.

As winter is bearing down and the snakes have probably started hibernating, your dogs should not have any problems in the shed. Come spring, however, you should relocate their food, etc. Below is an article by the very helpful "e-how" site about how to remove snakes from your house and yard. Please do not harm the snakes as they are just living their lives as they have for millions of years.  et-Rid-of-Snakes

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November 4, 20160 found this helpful

I am not a proponent of leaving dogs outside in the winter. Isn't there a place inside where they can be warm and tended to? Dogs who are left outside often bark all day for lack of companionship.

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November 7, 20160 found this helpful

It is not as bad as you may think. I have 5 dogs. The shed outside is insulated, and has electric run to it, therefore, they have heat, all have beds. I have a thermostat in there which shows the temp, just like a house. I am not worried about warmth, just possible snakes. I see them every day, most of the day unless I am working. I have tried letting them stay in the kitchen, but they pee and poop everywhere, and I have pads down. Therefore, I fixed up my shed as their own house, heat and all!

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June 7, 20131 found this helpful

I live in the Tampa, Florida area. Last year my white house cat got outdoors and just froze looking at something. Racing thru the flowerbed was a black snake, 4-5 ft long, with its head up like a periscope. It had the largest eyes I've ever seen, between nickel and quarter. Bright white cornea black iris. I have always had a snake phobia, but now I cannot even work in my flower beds. I hate that this snake controls my life. Please let me in on ID.

By Karen S from Lutz, FL

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June 8, 20130 found this helpful

It sounds like a FL Black Racer snake.

http://www.aaan  ablackracer.html

Generally these are harmless to you but they will eat squirrels, mice, and rats so if your cat is small you'll likely want to keep the cat indoors for it's protection. The presence of one in your garden means you have the much greater worry of a rodent infestation-these snakes go where the food is.

I lived in Melbourne, FL for several years in the 90s and about had heart failure one day when a curious Racer snake poked about 8" of it's upper body out of the pampas clump next to my mail box! They are active during the daylight hours and for a snake, rather comfortable about 'getting to know you'-not a shy snake at all!

Check with your co-operative extension office web pages for more info on the snake including how to discourage it from hanging at your house.

Whatever you do (and I agree that Caution is King here), please DO NOT kill it. The snake population of FL is dropping quickly but the rat population is unfortunately rising and one of the reasons is the human instinct to kill every snake for 200 miles.

I think I'd rather have snakes in the garden than rats, to be honest, and I hope you will agree.

The following is are links to your county extension office info pages re snakes in the garden:

http://hillsbor  entification.pdf

http://edis.ifa  s/UW/UW26000.pdf

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June 11, 20130 found this helpful

One time I had a snake in my yard, I made a few phone calls and described the snake and was told he was a King Snake. I named him Elvis and he was seen in my yard now and then for a couple of years. Once I knew he was a helpful snake and not poisonous, we were able to co-exist easily!

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December 6, 20130 found this helpful

It's black with red fleur de leis markings on its back.

By James from MS

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December 9, 20130 found this helpful

I 'googled' my state and snakes - a bunch of photos came up with, I guess, every snake native to Arkansas. The one I was seeking was not native but I finally found it on the internet (no one could identify it for me). I did not kill it - I hate to kill anything (except fire ants) and never saw it again. I think it might have been a pet... (not very big though - whew!) Good luck

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December 23, 20130 found this helpful

When I found a snake I couldn't identify in my yard I called a local reptile store and they ID'd it as a king snake-a good guy so I named him Elvis and he hung around for a couple of years.

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June 8, 2009

I was at a friend's house and we saw a huge 6 foot ling black snake. We thought it was just a big, non-venomous black snake that eats mice and is native to the area, but then it opened it's mouth and had a pure white mouth or throat.

We didn't know what it was, because the only snake we knew in the area with a white mouth is the Cottonmouth, a poisonous snake that can be lethal. But Cottonmouths don't get 6 feet long that we know of. We were not near water; it was in a small tree. Some feedback would be appreciated, so I can know if my friend is in danger or if the snake was harmless.

By bass player from West Plains, MO

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June 9, 20090 found this helpful

I'm not 100% certain, but because it has a white mouth, it sounds like a cottonmouth snake - it's named "cottonmouth" because of the white mouth/throat. If so, it is VERY venomous! Cottonmouth (a/k/a "water moccasin") snakes are usually smaller than that, but it's possible you could have estimated its size incorrectly. It's hard to tell a snake's actual size, due to its coiling/slithering.

In any case, call your local wild animal control center, or the humane society about this. You don't want to be messing with this snake if it is, indeed, a cottonmouth. Even if it isn't that species, it's better to have an expert determine what it is.

Because, if it is a cottonmouth, you seriously do not want to be bitten by it. They'll usually try to escape rather than attack you (unless it's cornered, or if you step on it by accident). Talk to some knowledgeable people in your area, and find out what the snake is, and whether it can be relocated safely.

I love snakes, but I have a very healthy respect for them. Be careful. :-)

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June 9, 20090 found this helpful

I can't find a way to edit my post, so I'll post some additional info.

OK. I got conflicting info from different websites about this snake. One site said that the snake will flee rather than attack, but others say that this snake is aggressive, and will attack.

Here's the site, with pictures, which might help you identify the snake:  ake/moccasin.htm

It says that rare cottonmouths have been reported as being up to 6 feet long, so your friend might be dealing with a granddaddy of this species.

All the more reason to get in touch with animal control immediately. Good luck!

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June 12, 20090 found this helpful

A couple things about "your" black snake, one, was it slender, and did it have a long, slender tail to the tip? Two, could you tell if it had any sign of an underlying pattern, no matter how faint? The cottonmouth, or water moccasin, is rather thick bodied for it's length, has a thick tail that ends kind of abruptly. They are often slightly splotchy in color, not always black, sometimes dull brownish-black, and they have a back that could almost be described as having a ridge. One last thing, a slit eye (up and down slit) is an indication of poisonous snake in the US, and a round eye indicates something like a pine snake, black racer, etc. Hope that helps.

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0 found this helpful
April 16, 2010

What type of snake is this? It is black with brown lines.

By Ricky from Houston, TX

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April 17, 20100 found this helpful

Go to -snake gallery- you might see it, good luck.

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May 10, 20090 found this helpful

My husband found this house he wants to buy and the people around there said the only problem you might see a few black snakes! I am very, very afraid of any kind of snake, dead, rubber, alive, whatever! The girl who had lived there previously told me they fall out of the trees when it rains! I honestly had to lay down last night because of it my heart was beating 100 miles an hour.

My husband does not understand and thinks it is funny. My opinion is if he loved me why in the heck would he want me to be scared to death. What can we do to get rid of them out of the trees and yard? Somebody please respond.

Martha from Spartanburg, SC


Black Snakes in Trees?

I found this on

Advice on getting rid of black snakes or "rat snakes":

Remove the Food Source

The black snakes are there to catch rodents. Remove the mice and rats and the snakes will leave. In the meantime, I would suggest you go through every room and make sure all holes are patched so the varmints (rats, mice, snakes) cannot get into your living quarters. Pay special attention to drain and water pipe holes. When there is no food for the snakes, they will leave of their own accord. Carolyn in Arkansas

Cut Away Branches

Black snakes climb trees. If there are any tree branches near or touching the house, the snakes can easily get in. Remove all branches close to the house. The snakes that are in the house will most likely find a way out of the house and will not be able to come back in. There are probably mice in the house, which is what attracted the snakes in the first place. When the mice are gone, the snakes will leave to find another food source. Sandy

Scatter Mothballs

Place mothballs in your attic/around your house. Not only does the smell keep moths from eating clothing, but it also repels snakes. Just make sure that small children and pets do not have access to the mothballs. Trisha

Advice from Pest Control

I work for a pest control company and there are two things that we recommend. One is a product called SnakeAway. It can be bought at home improvement stores like Lowe's. The other is less expensive. Throw around some mothballs. The snakes cannot breathe around them and they will stay away. JoAnn

Sulphur Solution

Ask your County Agent to bring sulphur gas foggers out and set several off on each floor and underneath the house. We live in Texas and there was no charge. The sulphur odor will permeate the entire structure and all pests will leave. Then spread water-soluble granulated sulphur about 12 inches out from the perimeter of the house and also the perimeter of the yard. We spread it throughout our yard because ticks and fleas trouble us during the summer. Sulphur is not harmful to people or animals, but it will make most undesirable "varmints" leave the premises. Then the granulated sulphur will prevent them from returning. Water the sulphur into the ground after spreading. When you no longer can see the granules, it is time to reapply.

In True Stretcher Form

First of all, it sounds like you have "rat snakes," which also means you have rodents of some kind living up there or close by. When you get rid of the snakes, you might have a mouse problem on your hands. I suggest that you try to get rid of the mice, and the snakes should leave on their own.

There is a product called "Snake Away," which should be effective in getting rid of them, but it can be expensive. In typical stretcher form, I'll tell you what's in it. It contains Napththalene, which is also found in mothballs.

Napththalene also repels bats and many other ground crawling animals. By virtue of the fact that it works on bats, I would think that it might work on mice as well. The only drawback is that your attic will smell pretty strong for awhile. Once your critters have left, be sure to plug the holes. The easiest way to find the holes in your house is to put a super bright light source in the attic at night, turn it on, and go outside to look for shafts of light. (07/16/2008)

Black Snakes in Trees?

Black racers do, indeed, climb trees. They are harmless, unless you are a rodent or other small critter. They do have a curious habit of shaking the tip of their tail in the leaves to try to fake you out (into thinking they're rattlesnakes) for their own protection.

You can keep them out of trees by painting a ring of "Tree Tanglefoot" or other similar product around the trees--they won't climb past it. In the wild, certain types of birds that nest in evergreens will peck holes in the bark the entire way around, to create a sap ring that keeps the snakes from climbing. Guess we can't improve on nature!

You can purchase "snake repellent" granules at a good garden store; I don't know how well they work; but they won't hurt to put around, and may give you a little peace of mind! (07/16/2008)

By Jilson

Black Snakes in Trees?

I live in Florida and I have many trees in my yard. In 25 years, I have seen one snake climbing down one certain tree where squirrels congregate and another snake climbing up that same tree. That's 2 snakes in 25 years. I have never seen black snakes fall out of the trees when it rains or anything else fall out of the trees. Don't believe everything you hear.

Black snakes are more fearful of you than you are of them. I'm told black snakes keep rattlesnakes away. You need to either conquer your extreme phobia or move out of the South. I am much less fearful of snakes now than I was when I moved to FL from NY. I actually get upset now when someone kills them. I prefer they just move them to another area. They are here for a purpose and they do it well. They don't want anymore to do with you than you want to do with them. They want to be left alone just like you do. (07/17/2008)

By Stngray

Black Snakes in Trees?

(submitted via email)
Your snake is a Texas Rat Snake, or usually called a chicken snake. We had a 4-1/2 foot one in our flower bed the other day and I killed it thinking it was a cottonmouth. Later when I researched, I was so upset that I killed it. They kill rats and other things we don't want around our house. They do not bite and they also love to climb into attics, trees, up the side of the house, etc. I'm south of Ft. Worth.

Elizabeth (07/17/2008)

By jess

Black Snakes in Trees?

Cedar mulch will keep all snakes away. I live in Texas in the country. For me to see a water moccasin on my way to my truck is not unusual. But if you put cedar mulch around your house, it will keep them away. Also, moth balls. The old fashion kind works as well. (09/22/2008)

By Debbie G

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July 16, 20080 found this helpful

My husband was trimming trees the other day and found a 1 foot long black snake laying on a branch in the tree. I wasn't aware that snakes hung out IN trees. We are 30 minutes NE of San Antonio, Texas and I know we have coral and copperheads around here. I know there is also cottonmouths in the county but I thought they were only near water. We are in straight sand and hickory and oak trees, not much water but lots of leaves. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas of what kind of snake it could be. And how do i keep snakes out of my trees?

Thanks for any advice,



Black Snakes in Trees?

I think the type of snake you describe is what is called a rat snake. I have seen them here in Kentucky, also. They are considered helpful in keeping down the rodent population. They look so nasty and can be huge, but I've been told that they are not harmful. Just very ugly. And nasty. Hope that helps you. (12/28/2004)

Black Snakes in Trees?

It might be a king snake. Don't know if you have them there. They kill other snakes such as copperheads so you would definitely not want to kill it. They do hang out in trees. I hate snakes and know very little so this is just a possibility. (12/28/2004)

By Ann

Black Snakes in Trees?

My first thought was also that it may be a king snake! I hope it was and I'm sure that gave you quite the scare! I would peed my drawers! If it was indeed a baby king snake, Ann was correct, they DO kill other snakes. A good snake to have a round. (12/28/2004)

By homeschoolin_mum

Black Snakes in Trees?

Among our many animals are reptiles, including snakes. We do humane education about reptiles and do a rescue for unwanted reptiles. Anyway, being the mammal person I am, I asked my husband, the reptile expert. He knew right away what it was--and he smiled when I told him what I thought. I was right! I'm learning.

It is, indeed, a rat snake. They are arboreal, so you really can't keep them out of trees. They are not venomous, but all snakes can bite, if threatened.

We have a number of rat snakes, which my husband carefully handles with work gloves. He's never been bitten, but he doesn't handle them more than necessary. No--they do not roam our house. They are kept in suitable enclosures and do well.

There is probably a local herpetological society in various Texas locales. Please don't kill them. They are valuable to the environment and really don't want to tangle with humans. If worse comes to worse, ship them to us and we'll find good homes for them or put them in a release program.

By writergal

Black Snakes in Trees?

Go see Lemony Snickets. There is a scene with the baby playing with a giant black snake. Maybe it will help you deal with this emotionally. I hope! (12/29/2004)

By coreenhart

Black Snakes in Trees?

I don't know if this is your snake(s), but hopefully this info will help!

"Because of its adaptability to a variety of habitats including those close to people, humans often encounter the Black Rat Snake. Although it is one of our most valuable snakes, human fear and prejudice against all snakes often result in this shy and beneficial species being killed on sight." (12/29/2004)

By The Fox

Black Snakes in Trees?

Thanks for all the feedback and info on this snake. it's nice to know what we have around our house, especially when we have kids. To coreenheart, I was not aware I had a problem emotionally coping with this issue. i just was shocked to see a snake in a tree and wanted to know what it was. Not like we were going to shoot or kill it or anything. We left it alone. I just wanted to know what it was.Thanks everyone for the info. (12/29/2004)

By txwright98

Black Snakes in Trees?

My dad used to tie barbed wire about 6 feet up around the trees to keep the snakes out.... hope it works for you too. (12/30/2004)

By kimmcg

Black Snakes in Trees?

My wife & I bought two lots just south & east of Houston. We began clearing them ourselves. We found copperheads, Mexican milk snakes, cottonmouths, common watersnakes, and coral snakes. We picked up Texas Monthly's Field Guide to Texas Snakes, through Gulf Publishing in Houston to help us identify them to make sure we did not harm the nonvenamous ones. It is well illustrated. Cats and Labradors can also be helpful in directing them, at least to the next yard. Our Lab got 4 coral snakes in one month. I understand that possums are immune to all Texas' snake venom & find them quite tasty.
Good Luck (08/22/2006)

By Will

Black Snakes in Trees?

We live in central North Carolina. We have recently found a rather long (3.5 - 4 feet) Black snake climbing up and resting in the branches of our tree adjacent to our bird bath and bird feeders. This has occurred mid day to early afternoon. Our guess is that it's looking for lunch or just "sunning" although it actually is in the shade.

About a year ago while trimming a large holy bush I found a snake skin that was more than 4 feet long and about 2 inches around the middle.

Our best guess is that these are what are commonly known as "Black Snakes." Upon doing some research, they may be "Rat Snakes." (05/04/2008)


Black Snakes in Trees?

Lots of snakes can climb trees, rafters, etc. If it was fat for it's length and had a strong odor, it's a cottonmouth (water moccasin). Cottonmouths are usually aggressive. There's also a plain black water snake. Thinner black snakes around here are called chicken snakes or rat snakes and they are not venomous and try to get away. They can get really long. I live in East Texas and snakes are common. Really creeps me out how they can climb because I always forget to look up out in the woods, I'm busy looking down for them. (06/01/2008)

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