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Snakes

Last Updated: 9/17/10

This page may eventually contain the following: some snake species information, snake photos, dealing with snakes at ponds, snakes and chickens, snake links, and so on.

Chicken Predators

In addition to the snakes below, I once found a ringneck snake. From my newsletter: "The morning of 7/3/06, there was a small, about 6" dead snake on the driveway. It was a ringneck snake, probably the Northern subspecies. It was gray on top, cream on the bottom, with a yellow ring around its neck. I had never seen that species before. I had to look it up." I also found a small snake about half a foot long as well while weeding under a butterfly bush on 9/7/09. It did not seem to have the ring around the neck and was almost entirely gray. The only solid colored snake I could find in my identification books was a brown snake so it might have been that. Otherwise, I do not know. I wish I had taken a photo instead of just moving him. He played dead.


Black Rat Snake

The black rat snake is the most common snake around our land in Maryland. It really does not spend much time at the pond though. A few times, one will come to the rocks around the pond to help break off its skin while shedding. I have never seen one in the water.

We used to have a lot of black rat snakes; they lived under the porch. More recently, I only see one about once or twice a year. A few years back, I pulled a full size adult out of a bird house by its tail. I managed to save two babies but the parents were too scared to return to the nest. On 9/19/08, a live mouse trap in the garage was tripped. I shook it and felt nothing. But, as I was resetting it, I noticed it was not empty. There was a hatchling snake in there! I should have taken a photo. It was a hatchling black rat snake. Until recently, I had not realized that the babies were not solid black on top like they adults. The babies have rings of gray along with black.

On 9/27/08, my brother caught a young snake in his basement and brought it over for me to identify, take photos, and release at the local park. It is a juvenile black rat snake so it is not all black yet. The photos are taken inside a cat litter bucket. He was very active.
Juvenile black rat snake
Juvenile black rat snake
Juvenile black rat snake

On 5/1/09, my brother caught another young black rat snake for me to release.
Juvenile black rat snake

On 5/4/10, a black rat snake went after a tufted titmouse nest. I took these photos of the large snake along the front porch. Weeds hide most of him. He/she was about two feet long.
Adult black rat snake
Adult black rat snake


Common Water Snake

The common water snake is Nerodia sipedon. It is a harmless (to you), quick, up to 3 feet long snake. They will eat whatever aquatic critters they can catch. They give birth to live young.

There are few water sources near to my pond. So, on 7/12/09, when I spotted a snake, I was shocked. Why? I got a surprise when I went to pull up the pump in the big pond. My first thought was "eel!" Of course, there are no eels in my pond. It was a snake. I got a good enough look at it to tell it was brown with triangular darker patterns on it. I thought copperhead but later on-line checked the water snake photos. Yep, I think it was a Northern water snake. This is very bad news for the pond fish and frogs. Water snakes are adept at eating them. The snake was about two to three feet long and swam quickly to the marginal area where the resident female (and only) bullfrog chirped and hopped in to the pond. She was back in her spot the next day. There are very few frogs around. If this snake has been around a while, that could be one reason. I have not seen the snake again yet and will keep you posted.

For a site with photos of the Diamondback and Yellowbellied water snakes, go to this site. They try to eat big goldfish in Elizabeth's pond but cannot always swallow!

Candy sent this photos of a water snake in her pond on 5/30/07. I am not sure which species it is. It might be a Southern water snake or Nerodia fasciata or maybe a brown water snake or Northern water snake. They all look so similar! Enature lists 11 water snake species in the US here. There is also a neat spider in the photo. I was told that it is a fishing spider, the six spotted Dolomedes triton.
Water snake


Corn Snake

The corn snake is not one you would normally find by your pond but it is common in backyards across most of the Eastern half of the United States. As I wrote a report on this snake for work (a food company found it in a shipment), I thought I would add the information I gathered to this site for those who are curious.

The corn snake (Elaphe guttata) comes in both orange and dark-phases. The dark- phased snake is often confused with rattlers but it does not have a rattle. Corn snakes belong to the family Colubridae (rat snakes). Aside from the general appearance of the reptile, there are two identifying stripes at the underside of the base of the tail. A good photo of an adult dark-phase corn snake can be seen at this site and another photo can be seen at this site. A site with information on identifying characteristics of corn snakes is found here. The corn snake is more commonly known for its orange color phase. Corn snakes are found in most of the Eastern half of the United States, as far west as Colorado, north to New Jersey, and south to Florida. Corn snakes are not poisonous. When cornered, corn snakes will lift their heads, hiss, shake their tails, and act aggressively. Born at 10-15 inches long, they grow to three to five feet long over three years. Corn snakes may live 20 years. They are found in many different rural and suburban habitats including fields, woods, rock piles, wetlands, barns, and back yards. Primarily nocturnal, they hunt most small animals including rodents (mice, rats, moles, voles), frogs, birds, bats, and bird's eggs. Young snakes will hunt baby rodents, bird's eggs, large insects, and other small animals. During daylight, corn snakes will make every effort to hide in a dark location.

Two corn snakes at the Maryland Zoo on 8/19/10.


Eastern Ribbon Snake

Thamnophis sauritus is the Eastern ribbon snake. They might visit your pond.


Garter Snake

A dead garter snake on 8/2/01. It was killed only minutes before on our road (not by me) and was 21 inches total in length. The right photo is its underbelly. A few inches down its body, you can see where it was fatally injured when crushed.

Thamnophis sirtalis is the common garter snake but there are almost a dozen species of garter snake growing from 1.5 to 3 feet long. They are very opportunistic, eating whatever is available. Some are semi-aquatic. They are harmless to large mammals.

On 8/24/98, my brother says he saw a garter snake undulating across my pond. Actually, he thought it was a ribbon snake. It had stripes of yellow and black and was only a few feet long. Whether it ate some of my minnows, tadpoles, frogs, or something else, we will never know. I doubt it was there to take a bath. I saw a garter snake in the water and rocks on 10/11/98. Thus, I assume that it is the same one as my brother saw on 8/24, and he says they look the same. It was kind of cute and did not bite when I touched its head with a stick. As long as it only eats my surplus minnows and tadpoles, I welcome it. If the snake decides my goldfish are handy snacks, I would not be so happy.

Update on our pond garter snake: I found it dead with its head bitten off! I think the raccoon did it. I have not seen any garter snakes since then (4/99) but do see black snakes occasionally.

See more photos of garter snakes in the photo section below including a mating ball of them!


Snakes and Ponds

Discouraging snakes from frequenting your pond:

Remove all rocks from the area and all other hiding places. I cannot do this since my pond is held together with 6 tons of Pennsylvania fieldstone! Most snakes that will visit an ornamental pond do little harm as they eat only a few small animals and few are poisonous or will even bite. Snakes rarely stay around any one pond for any length of time.


Snake Photos

Photos of Snakes That I Took:

Photos are listed from oldest to newest.

I went to the zoo on 6/7/06 and took these two photos of snakes while there.
Copperhead snake
Black rat snake

There is another photo of a black rat snake on this page.

On 8/12/07, my mother brought a baby 7" garter snake to me that she had found on the road. I did not see any injuries at first. Since I had just mowed the lawn, I must have hit it with the mower. I did not see him/her. I swerve to avoid bees so I would have avoided him. I was upset.
Baby garter snake - top view
Baby garter snake - bottom view
Baby garter snake - head close-up; you can see the deadly injury an inch down or so on the body.

On 3/25/10, my 4-year-old niece found a "baby snake nest" at the park. When I saw the photo my father took, it was a garter snake mating ball. The largest snake is female. There appear to be four tails indicating perhaps three males involved.
Garter snake mating ball
Garter snake mating ball

Photos that Other People Have Sent to Me:

Photos are listed from oldest to newest.

Chuck sent this photo on 5/26/06 of some species of water snake eating a bluegill! He said (edited by me), "I live in Kokomo Indiana....I took my 6-year-old grandson on a fishing trip to a local pond just west of Kokomo. He caught this bluegill and put it next to the tackle box and went to get the stringer to save the fish. The box and fish were right next to where I was sitting. This snake came out of the water, crawled up on the bank, over the tackle box, and snatched up my grandson's prized catch and off in the water he went to eat it. I'm a local photographer, and I go nowhere without my camera which was sitting right beside me. I went to the water bank and preceded to photo this fish thief with amazement. He ate this whole thing in about one minute flat, and then he kept trying to snatch them off our hooks in following catches as we were reeling them out of the water. There were dozens of these snakes....I have a website at http://pictureworld.org. You can share this pic and story if you like. On my site, you can see the whole sequence of this eating frenzy.

Chuck (not the person who sent the above photo) sent these photos of a snake that he found in his pond filter on 9/7/06. He thought maybe it was a copperhead, and I was not sure. The Maryland DNR told him that it is a Northern watersnake. While they are not venomous, they are aggressive.
Northern watersnake
Northern watersnake

Candy sent this photos of a water snake in her pond on 5/30/07. I am not sure which species it is. It might be a Southern water snake or Nerodia fasciata or maybe a brown water snake or Northern water snake. They all look so similar! Enature lists 11 water snake species in the US here. There is also a neat spider in the photo. I was told that it is a fishing spider, the six spotted Dolomedes triton.
Water snake

Jon sent this photo on 8/17/07 of a maritime garter snake in Western Maine.
Maritime garter snake

I took this photo at the National Zoo on 9/14/07:
Copperhead snake

Jon sent this photo of an Eastern milk snake on 6/15/09:
Eastern milk snake


Snake Links

There is a lot of information on various snakes on the internet. Here is but one site I found.
Mike's Life List - includes photos and a little information on about 74 species of snake including 10 species of water snakes.

Snake Tracks - a new, large snake site.

Trapping Snakes in a Pond

Rat Snakes (link request)


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