There are several species of snakes that look like a rattlesnake. The most prominent and popular are the gopher snake and the viper boa. However, others bear a close resemblance, like the hognose, and the indigo.
Although they look like rattlesnakes, they have no rattle. A rattlesnake is called so because of the rattle located at the tip of its tail. If a snake has no rattle, then it does not belong to that family. All rattlesnakes are pit vipers.
Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmed. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
Snakes That Look Like Rattlesnakes
1. Gopher Snake (Pituophis Catenifer Catenifer)
Many people refer to the gopher snake as the bull snake. It is a non-venomous colubrid that is endemic to North America.
Gopher snakes look like rattlesnakes because of their keeled scales. It has a narrow head and a wide neck. Gopher snakes are found in various colors, with some of them sharing the yellowish body and dark spots as rattlesnakes.
As an adult, it can grow up to seven feet. Some of them are grey, and some are chocolate brown. Some even have black blotches. It is these dark spots that make people mistake them for rattlesnakes.
2. Viper Boa (Candoia aspera)
Viper Boas are found in New Guinea. It looks like the Death Adder, which is a dangerous species. However, the viper boa is mostly harmless.
Viper boas have thick bodies and a barely discernible tail, which is whey they can be easily mistaken for a rattlesnake.
The body of a viper boa is reddish, with a saddle-type pattern that makes it look like a rattlesnake. As a non-venomous snake, it makes for a great pet.
3. Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon Piscivorus)
The cottonmouth is also called the water moccasin. It is a dangerous snake that has a powerful venom. At first glance, it can look like a viper boa, and many people mistake it for a rattlesnake. Cottonmouths are common in Florida and many countries.
Read More: Do All Snakes have Fangs?
Mistaking it for a rattlesnake is a good thing, as one would exercise caution before even attempting to handle it. They have slit eyes, which give them the same look like snakes in the pit viper family, including the rattlesnake.
An adult cottonmouth can reach up to four feet. A big snake, it is also thick and formidable. Its body is covered with many dark spots. Some, however, are pure black.
4. Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis Calligaster Calligaster)
The Prairie Kingsnake is medium-sized and is common in America. Because of its brown color, it’s easily mistaken for a rattlesnake. It also has dark blotches spread out in its body, similar to many rattlesnakes. A Prairie Kingsnake can vibrate its tail when it is under stress or if it is alarmed, similar to a rattlesnake.
An adult can grow p to 42 inches, and has a distinctive “V” or “U” symbol at the back of its neck.
Like many rattlesnakes look-alike snakes, the prairie kingsnake is not harmful. It is a non-venomous colubrid.
However, it is one powerful snake that eats its kind. Yes, it does eat other snakes, including venomous ones. And yes, it eats rattlesnakes, too. If at all, then one can say that it is a snake that people would want in their backyards.
5. Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis Triangulum Triangulum)
At the top of the head is a letter “Y” blotch, which makes them easy to mistake for rattlesnakes. Milk snakes are not venomous, and they are nocturnal. One is not likely to see a milk snake during the day.
Read More: Are Snakes Nocturnal?
The milk snake that many people know is the red-black-yellow one. What many people do not realize is that there are greyish milk snakes that resemble rattlesnakes.
The milk snake is short, growing only up to 36 inches or three feet. They are heavy, despite being medium-sized. For the brown and gray ones, they have reddish-brown blotches that have a black outline.
6. Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon Platirhinos)
The hognose snake comes in a variety of colors, but some of them resemble the pattern of a rattlesnake. These ones are those that have a grayish to brown color base with large rectangular blotches.
Hognose snakes are commonly called puff adders. They are thick, and they can grow up to almost four feet in length.
Many people say that they are not venomous. It is not true. These snakes have venom, which they inject into their prey. However, the venom is not powerful enough to harm a human. The problem is that some humans may be allergic to saliva, and this is what causes damage to the human body.
7. Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon Couperi)
The indigo snake is a large non-venomous colubrid. It is common in the southeast parts of the United States, and it can grow up to 82 inches.
Eastern Indigo snakes are black and glossy, and it is this color that makes them look like a rattlesnake. Particularly the Crotalus cerberus or Arizona Black Rattlesnake.
Some common names for the eastern indigo snake include:
- Blue indigo snake
- Black snake
- Blue gopher snake
- Blue bull snake
The indigo snake has a varied diet. They eat mice, frogs, lizards, small mammals, birds, and even snakes. One interesting thing about indigo is that it is immune to the venom of North American rattlesnakes. As such, these rattlesnakes are part of their diet.
Rattlesnakes are dangerous. The one thing that a person must remember is that it has a rattle. Unfortunately, young rattlesnake have no rattle, so it’s not always possible to accurately identify them and what looks like a harmless snake may in fact be a deadly rattlesnake.
Many snakes have evolved to look like rattlesnakes (even when they aren’t) to deter would-be predators like owls.
In any case, the best course of action when you find any snake is to call animal control to deal with it safely.
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Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.