This article will explore 12 of the least venomous snakes you might come across in your yard.
The United States is home to hundreds of snake species, both venomous and non-venomous. Fortunately, the non-venomous variants are more common and more likely to be spotted roaming in residential areas.
Most non-venomous snakes such as rat snakes and milk snakes feed on rodents and, therefore, help to keep pests and rodents away.
In this way, they play a big role in balancing the ecosystem. Also, most of the least venomous snakes are completely harmless to humans, and some are even kept as pets.
Texas is the state that houses most species of snakes, as well as many of the least venomous snakes in the USA.
Below are some of the most common non-venomous snakes in the United States.
List of the Least Venomous Snakes in America
1. Texas Rat Snake
The Texas rat snake, scientific name Elaphe obsolete lindheimeri, is a subspecies of the rat snake family. It is a non-venomous colubrid that is found in the United States, especially in Texas, as hinted by its name. The Texas rat snake can also be found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
This snake grows to 4-5 feet long, so it is relatively big in size. Appearance-wise, it usually is yellow or tan in color, with irregular blotches from its head to its tail.
Rat snakes are known to consume rodents, most specifically rats. They are, therefore, instrumental in chasing the unwanted pests from homes. When threatened, Texas rat snakes open their mouths agape, and if push comes to shove, they might bite. Luckily, their bites are not harmful to humans, as they are non-venomous.
2. North American Racer
Also known as the black racers, or Coluber constrictor in scientific terms, the North American racer is a non-venomous snake that exists in about eleven species across North America. In the United States, it is mostly found in the East and the upper Midwest states of the country.
Primarily, North American racers are navy blue (almost black) in color with a pale underside. A mature snake grows to anywhere between 3 to 5 feet long. As they are constrictors, they hunt their prey by squeezing the prey until it dies and then swallowing it whole. They mostly feed on rodents, as well as birds and other snakes.
3. Ring-Necked Snake
The Diadophis punctatus, commonly referred to as the ring-necked snake, is the only member of the genus Diadophis. It is a harmless, non-venomous species of colubrid snakes spread throughout the United States, especially along the eastern coast. It can also be found in other parts of the United States.
Most ring-necked snakes are dull-colored, ranging from dark blue to grey to smoky black. The most distinguishing feature about these snakes, which also explains its name, is that it has a yellow-orange band at the neck.
These snakes are secretive, and you will barely see them during the day. They hunt at night, and their diet primarily consists of small amphibians and worms. When threatened, ring-necked snakes curl up their tails to expose a bright red-orange posterior.
4. Rough Green Snake
Rough green snakes are relatively long and can grow to a length of 81 cm. They belong to the genus Opheodrys, and their scientific name is Opheodrys aestivus. Rough green snakes can be identified by their slender, bright green bodice and pale belly. Moreover, they spend most of their time in vegetated areas climbing branches and lounging on them.
These snakes are common throughout the United States, but their range is highest in New Jersey, Central Texas, and Florida. They are pretty harmless, and when threatened, they tend to freeze. They are also masters of camouflage when they need to hide from predators.
When they die, the green color of the snakes slowly turns to black, and if you don’t know any better, you might mistake them for the North American racer.
5. Milk Snake
Brightly colored and strikingly patterned, milk snakes are nonvenomous new world snakes found all over the Americas. In the United States, they can be spotted anywhere apart from the West Coast. Despite their uncanny resemblance to the deadly copperheads, milk snakes are no threat to humans and are even a favorite for snake hobbyists.
Their bodies are decorated with bands whose coloration differs between red, black, and white. The area separating the bands is often white, yellow, or orange. With Lampropeltis Triangulum as their Scientific name, they belong to a group of snakes that have shiny skins. As a matter of fact, the genus name, Lampropeltis, means “shiny shields” in Greek.
6. Western Ribbon Snake
Also known as Thamnophis Proximus, the Western Ribbon snake is common in the United States, especially in the Wisconsin area. Variants of the garter snake family, these snakes are non-venomous, and their bites are not lethal to humans.
The Thamnophis Proximus tend to live in bushy habitats that are close to water sources. When threatened, their first instinct is to jump into water in an effort to escape. They also have the tendency to hide behind thick bushes.
These tiny snakes tend to have dull backsides with relatively paler bellies. As such, their backs are either black or dark brown with lighter side stripes. The bellies are usually light green or yellowish in color. This body coloration helps them camouflage when they need to hide. They primarily feed on amphibians, their favorite food being frogs.
7. Boa Constrictor
Although they are not natives of the United States, there have been sightings of the snakes in some states, especially the wilds of Southern Florida. Probably the largest snake on this list, Boa constrictors can grow up to 13 feet long and over 100 pounds heavy. As huge as they are, Boa constrictors are quite harmless to human beings as they are non-venomous.
However, this does not mean that you let your guard down when you spot them. Still, be very wary as they could hurt you in other ways. As constrictors, these snakes kill their prey by squeezing them to death. They feed on mammals such as monkeys and wild pigs.
The color and patterns of the bodies of boa constrictors can vary according to the habitat they are trying to blend into. Thus, they could be green, tan, red, or yellow. The patterns could be jagged lines, diamonds, circles, or oval shapes.
Read More: What Do Boa Constrictors Eat?
8. Corn Snake
A subspecies of the rat snake family, the corn snake is common in the United States, most especially the Southeastern United States, ranging from New Jersey to the Florida Keys. They are good climbers, and while they are a favorite of hobbyists, they are great escape artists.
Corn snakes lack functional venom, rendering them harmless to humans. However, they can inflict a painful bite when and if provoked enough. As they feed on rodents, corn snakes are beneficial to humans because they control the population of these destructive pests.
These brightly colored serpents tend to grow to a length of between 4 and 6 feet. Moreover, they subdue their small prey by constriction before consuming them.
Other non-venomous snakes in the United States include the following:
- Eastern Rat Snake
- Southern Watersnake
- Florida Cottonmouth
- Common Garter Snake
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The United States is home to many wild animals, among them snakes. There are snakes in almost every state of the country, both venomous and non-venomous. Fortunately, the non-venomous species outnumber the venomous ones by a wide margin.
Naturally, non-venomous snakes are harmless to humans. If anything, they are quite beneficial as they help in controlling the population of rodents. Among all the states, Texas and Florida house the most snakes.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.