ADULT SNAKES OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS

Sizes given are average for adults from nose to tail tip (Total Length)

Body scales may have a ridge down the center (keeled) or not (smooth)

BRK = Berkshire County    HMD = Hampden County    HMP = Hampshire County    FRK = Franklin County


STRIPED SNAKES (Snakes with bright yellow dorsal stripes from nose to tail)


1. Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) Rough-edged, yellow stripe on back with two yellow stripes on side, touching light color on belly. Keeled scales. About 2 feet long. All counties


2. Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus) Sharp-edged, yellow stripe on back with two distinct side stripes. White crescent in front of eye. Very thin snake. Keeled scales. About 1.5 feet long. All counties


SOLID COLORED SNAKES (Snakes with one major color on back)


3. Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis) Bright or dull green on top and bottom. May appear bluish in recently dead animals. Smooth scales. About 1.5 feet long.  All counties


4. Common Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus) Brown on top with a pink belly that reaches up onto the sides. Tiny eyes; very glossy. Scales smooth. About 1 foot long. HMD only. THREATENED


5. Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) Brown on top with various black flecks and a hint of a tan dorsal band from head to tail. Can have black spots on back and sides. Light tan, unmarked belly. Keeled scales. About 1 foot long. All counties


6. Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) Variable. May be brown, reddish, or gray on top. Belly vivid coral red. Keeled scales. Young with three indistinct yellowish spots on neck. About 1 foot long. All counties


7. Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) Slate gray on top with a bright, yellow ring around neck. Belly bright mustard yellow, sometimes with spots. Smooth scales. About 1.5 feet long. All counties


8. Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) Shiny black on top. White snout; little white on lips and throat. Belly dark gray. Often vibrates tail when confronted. Smooth scales. Young; gray with brownish saddles and dark iris. About 4 feet in length. HMD, HMP, FRK, southern BRK


9. Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) Black on top, often with white speckles. Upper snout dark; lips and chin white. Belly white with black blotches.  Young: gray, with brownish saddles and a large, white iris. Some scale rows, but not all, keeled. About 4 feet in length. HMD, HMP, southern edge of FRK.  ENDANGERED


PATTERNED SNAKES (Snakes with variable markings on back)


10. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) Variable. Often brown or yellow with darker saddles on back and sides. May appear nearly black. Belly un-patterned. Upturned snout. Keeled scales. Spectacular defense — hissing, neck spreading, feigning death. About 3 feet long. HMD, HMP, southern FRK


11. Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) Variable. Large adults appear brownish black with no markings. Smaller adults dark on top with wide, dark blotches on back and sides. Young: gray with dark saddles. Belly richly patterned with red, yellow, and black blotches. Keeled scales. About 3 feet in length. All counties


12. Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) A gray snake with reddish saddles and side blotches. Belly light with many black checkerboard squares. Obvious (if you look for it)  X-or Y-shape on top of head. Smooth scales. About 2.5 feet in length. Often vibrates tail when confronted. All counties


13. Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) A reddish snake with reddish saddles and side blotches. Belly with some black squares. No markings on head. Often vibrates tail when confronted. About 2.5 feet in length. VENOMOUS. Restricted parts of HMD and HMP only.  ENDANGERED


14. Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) Variable. Some light yellow with strong pattern of dorsal blotches and saddles. Others less bright, with darker blotches on back and sides. Some appear nearly black, with little appearance of blotches. Always with rattle segments at end of tail. May shake rattle when confronted. About 3 to 4 feet long. VENOMOUS. Edge of HMD and southern BRK only.  ENDANGERED


You can download a PDF of this page here.

Common and Latin names mostly follow... 

Crother, B.I. (ed.).  2012. 7th Ed. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, With Comments Regarding Confidence in our Understanding. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39: 1-92. http://www.ssarherps.org/pdf/HC_39_7thEd.pdf


© Tom Tyning 2013