Yvonne enjoys photographing and studying the many mammals, reptiles and amphibians that dwell in her backyard habitat in Louisiana.
Snakes From Louisiana
Coexisting Peacefully with Snakes
Louisiana has many snakes, and thus many wonderful photo ops present themselves as I go about on our nine-acre habitat along the Tchefuncte River. I have included some of the best of these interesting reptiles for your viewing enjoyment.
My husband has been an amateur herpetologist since he was a young boy. As a child, I was taught to identify poisonous snakes, but my husband expanded my knowledge greatly. Now I can quickly identify the different species of Louisiana snakes. I even handle the nonvenomous varieties. I hope that these pictures will help those who are not familiar with these reptiles to identify harmless snakes, as well as the venomous types.
Snakes are an extremely important part of the food chain and the cycle of life. They help keep the population of vermin (like mice and rats) down, which helps protect our food supply.
In our habitat, we try to coexist peacefully with all species of snakes, even the venomous Cottonmouth and Copperhead. Because we try to keep the natural balance between the larger predators (bobcats and raccoons) intact, we rarely have problems with snakes, except when they are forced to flee to higher ground during high-water periods.
Gentle Speckled Kingsnake
Speckled Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
One of my favorite snakes of Louisiana is the Speckled Kingsnake. Not only are they beautiful, but they're beneficial to humans. Kingsnakes eat rodents and will often kill and eat poisonous snakes, like the Cottonmouth and Copperhead. We welcome these gentle creatures into our garden and protect them in our habitat.
Black Racer, Coluber constrictor
In Louisiana, we have the Southern Black Racer and four sub-species. Black Racers are very fast snakes. They hunt with their heads up, sensing their prey. They do not constrict, but grab prey and often swallow it whole.
We are blessed to have quite a few of these lovely snakes in our habitat. The very young of the species is speckled. As they mature, they develop the dark, bluish-black coloration of the adults.
Black Racers will sometime swim across our pond, though they are more comfortable on land. From a distance, we have mistaken them for Yellow-Bellied water snakes and vice-versa. Black racers have a cream-colored patch on their throats, but their bellies are gray. Yellow-Bellied water snakes are creamy yellow on the throat and all the way down to their tails.
Young Black Racer
Texas Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii
Both the Black Rat Snake and the Texas Rat Snake inhabit Louisiana. In the southeastern part of the state, the Texas Rat Snake is more prevalent. These snakes are amazing climbers and have been known to climb 40 feet in pine trees.
I personally witnessed this one afternoon, when I observed a Pileated Woodpecker which was acting strangely. The woodpecker ended up "herding" the rat snake down the tree to my waiting stick. We then transported the snake down to the river, away from our bluebird houses.
Texas Rat Snake Coiled
Adult Ring-Neck Snake
Ring-Neck Snake, Diadophis punctatus
Ring-Neck snakes are very small. They live in leaf litter and under logs. Their bright yellow and orange undersides are thought to be a defense mechanism. They usually roll over on their backs when in danger, which momentarily confuses the predator, giving them time to quickly escape.
Diamondback Water Snake
Diamondback Water Snake, Nerodia rhombifer
These large, interesting snakes are often seen in the Tchefuncte River. They eat fish, and will often wrap their tail around a submerged branch and lay motionless until prey comes near. We've captured some pictures of this hunting technique and have even observed these beautiful snakes devouring a meal of fresh catfish. Sadly, Diamondback water snakes are often mistaken for Cottonmouths and are killed.
Yellow-Bellied Water Snake, Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
Yellow-Bellied water snakes are one of the Plain Bellied Water Snakes. Yellow-Bellies are often found far from water. We sometimes have a pair of the large snakes in our patio and water garden area in spring.
There are six species of poisonous snakes that inhabit Louisiana. In our habitat, the most common one is the Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus. The Cottonmouth (also called Water Moccasin) is a member of the Pit Viper family. It is venomous and has fangs which inject venom into its prey. They live in and around water and are the only semi-aquatic viper in the world.
The young are very colorful and are often confused with Copperheads.
Its brightly colored 'cousin', the Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, also inhabits our part of Louisiana. We rarely see Copperheads, because many have been killed and those that remain are very reclusive. We are still hoping to get a picture of one of these beautiful snakes.
When we encounter poisonous snakes on the trails, we use a long stick to flip them away. We try not to kill them.
Copperhead and Cottonmouth Identification
Copperhead or Cottonmouth?
Some comments from readers indicate that they thought the picture below of a young cottonmouth (which found its way onto our porch) was of a young copperhead. Cottonmouths and copperheads belong to the same genus and are close cousins. I have provided two additional photos which may clear this matter up.
The best way to identify these snakes is to look at the markings on the head. Copperheads have a paler face with no dark markings, while cottonmouths have a dark slash mark behind the eye and another dark area under the eye. The markings on the body of cottonmouths do not turn dark until they are over a year old and get darker with age. Also, the pattern of the young snakes is different, with the copperheads having larger, more solid triangular patterns on their bodies. The young ones both have yellowish tips on their tails.
Young Cottonmouth on Porch
© 2011 Yvonne L. B.
Please leave a comment before slithering off.
Mattie on March 21, 2019:
Thank you for your pictures and information. But I’m still confused about the two snakes we show in our small backyard pond. One was a skinny snake after the minnows I’m assuming. And a very long thick dark brown black snack cord up on the branch of a tree just above the water. I couldn’t see the head but I did notice it was slowly waving it’s skinny tale. I again assumed the it was trying to attract females. But my husband has a gentleman at his work that is very knowledgeable when it comes to snakes. He says “it’s probably a brown water snake not a water maccasin”, but from what I’ve been reading it could be a Dimond back water snake and they are larger than the brown water snake. Either way we’d rather not have them in our pond. We have grand daughters who enjoy fishing in the pond. But right behind the pond we have a large ditch so my desire for no snakes isn’t reasonable. But my question is if we remove all bushes and trees from around the pond bank will the snakes leave the pond or are the snakes in the pond to stay. Oh we live in Rincon Ga. there are so many ponds around. Thank you again for your time. Mattie ☺️
shannon on July 10, 2017:
GREAT site. helped me identify a black racer in my yard. Thanks!
tulani on October 01, 2016:
look you guys I have a big snake prop I have found like 5 snakes in my house not at the same time like every 2 days and I don't know what to do I have 3 kids and I don't sleep trying to keep them safe help me wthtd
Chris Brown on June 20, 2016:
I have found a very young ground rattle snake in my house, my cousin got bit by a copperhead in her house, hospitalized for 2 or 3 days.... I used to kill all snakes! But my husband has taught me to look at the difference. Had a Brown snake on my carport just last night. They are everywhere but I just don't know where they go..... it's hard but I have seen 5 so far and all are still living.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on June 11, 2015:
I added 2 photos. One is another view of the young cottonmouth which better shows its head and markings. The other is an illustration comparing copperheads and cottonmouths. I hope this helps to clear up the identity confusion.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on June 10, 2015:
Baby cottonmouths also have the yellowish-chartreuse tail. I think that the pattern of this snake is different from a copperhead, but I will compare my high resulution pictures to the many guides that I have, plus 20+ years of personal observations and give it a 2nd look.
Justin on June 09, 2015:
Fantastic work! I've lived in north la, just north of coushatta actually, all of my life. I'm going to have to agree with lcylynn and Henry on that one though. I have probably seen more copperheads than moccasins over the years. If that's a moccasin, it'd be the most resemblant to a copperhead I've ever seen. I once tore down a beaver dam in greenwood one summer and shook up a bottomland full of both juveniles and adults. It was then that I first noticed the chartreuse tail on the juvenile copperheads. Absolutely beautiful! But both are very dangerous at that stage.
I think you should relabel that pic and scratch copperheads off your wish list! Celebrate!
Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on September 25, 2014:
Another way to tell a cottonmouth from a copperhead is that cottonmouths, even small colorful ones, have a dark stripe on their face from behind the nose to under and behind the eye. Copperheads have no stripe and also have light beige cheeks and throats. See pictures of copperheads on https://discover.hubpages.com/animals/copperhead-s...
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on September 12, 2014:
Cottonmouth and copperhead snakes belong to the same genus. You could say that they are close cousins. Very young (under a month) baby cottonmouths are very colorful and have bright markings that darken with age. The distinctive yellow tipped tail is another identification tool. Though they are colorful, the head does not have the reddish copper color of copperheads. Because of lighting in photographs, the color may look more red than it is. Also the color tints on computer screens vary.
I, too, have many cottonmouths on my property in South Louisiana and have observed and photographed all shapes and sizes and at close range. However we have never run across a copperhead of any size. The young of many species of snakes do not look like the adult snake.
Lcylynn on June 21, 2014:
At the bottom where it has three pics and says cottonmouth. Top says cottonmouth then the middle pic says baby cottonmouth. I live around these snakes and the middle pic that says baby cottonmouth it's NOT a cottonmouth it is a COPPERHEAD, you can see the major difference in the two snakes. The pattern on the back. A copperhead is orangish with the same exact pattern. I've never seen a cottonmouth that looks that that. There r a bunches of different colored cottonmouths but it's never looked like a copperhead.
henrymoorehouse on May 23, 2014:
Are you sure your baby cottonmouth is not actually a copperhead?
LKslates from New Orleans, Louisiana on May 18, 2014:
Maybe y'all can help me out. I've seen two snakes of the same species but have been unable to find any descriptions or photographs that match what I've seen. For clarification, I live in Orleans Parish, LA close to both the mighty river and the Intracoastal Waterway. The snakes are long (about four to five feet) and have a solid, silver body with a pale, yellowish belly. I can't remember much about them beyond that - they don't have any blotches or easily distinguishable marks. They are not aggressive by any stretch of the imagination. They tend to appear near wood piles (of which I have way too many). They're very flashy and beautiful to see but not being able to put a name to them bothers me greatly. Any ideas?
Paul_dixonjfd24@icloud.com on April 06, 2014:
I was looking for a snake that was found in the baby's bed. It looks like a mike, or a king; but has a head like a cooper head. It has rings red, black, white, black, red, on upper part, and it's bottom half way is gray with the same strips. Been here 47 years and never seen one. Looks like a cross bread, or not from around here. Ps. It's 14 "
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on March 18, 2014:
Pit vipers eyes do look different from from the round eyes of non-venomous snakes. Vipers such as the cottonmouth & rattlesnakes also have a pit behind the eye and slight hoods over the eye.
Your saying is a version I have not heard, but is correct - red on yellow is the venomous coral snake, red on black is the non-venomous king snake.
Dee on March 17, 2014:
Thank you! We live in Pearl River, LA and your info and pics are very helpful. Appreciate the hard work you put into sharing with us!
walter dugan on January 05, 2013:
if you don't mindcan you talk about the eye of poisonous,andnon poisonous snakes and if there is a difference between the 2 species, by their eyes. i also have been told in collegethat teh eastern coral is akin to cobras,venom wise. i live southcentrl louisiana,and had a few encounters with them.is the saying "red to yellow kills a fellow, and red to black venom lack". thanks
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on October 19, 2012:
The black rat snake (or chicken snake as we called them in Coushatta) and black racer both live in north central La. Both eat lots of rats and are non-venomous. They are our friends. :) After they eat the rats, they will leave. I have written pages about both with many photos on Squidoo. Here are the links: https://discover.hubpages.com/animals/blackracer_s and https://owlcation.com/stem/rat-snakes-in-louisiana Hope this helps.
stormi on October 18, 2012:
I have a house Im remodeling. I know I have a rat due to the evidence left behind. I recently ventured in to my house a few days ago and stumbled upon a solid black snake. Coiled up it looked to be about an inch round, I could not tell the length. I freaked and haven't been back!! With knowing the rat is in there, Im assuming its a rat snake. But I have freaked myswlf out on finding pictures and info on a racer snake. I live in central north Louisiana, in rural country. Any ideas????
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on September 16, 2012:
If the black & red stripes had a little yellow stripe then you could have seen a scarlet kingsnake or a coral snake. The deep gray with yellow could be a yellow bellied kingsnake or maybe a black racer, although the throat is more white than yellow. I have a Squidoo page about Snakes of Louisiana (http://www.squidoo.com/snakes_louisiana) with more pictures that you may find helpful.
joyce on September 15, 2012:
im scared to death of snakes...i came in contact with 3 this weekend...one looked like the king snake in the pic but then i had one that was black with red stripes from head to tail and one that was a deep gray with yellow under the head but bot the body....so interested to find out...i have pets
danny on June 22, 2012:
i do not like snakes at all my brother has a ball python and a cat and i have a dog
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on April 15, 2012:
I hope your friend suffered no ill effects from the snake bite. Cottonmouths are very venomous if they are large or if it has been a while since they injected the venom into prey. It's best not to handle venomous snakes. You should always watch where you walk or place your hands when you are in snake habitat.
Dus on April 15, 2012:
My friend got bit by a cotton mouth a couple days ago and if been looking at all kinds of snakes and reading about them and they are way more interesting then I thought
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on March 31, 2012:
Hi Shyla, That sounds like a non-poisonous garter or a ribbon snake, but since you didn't say what part of the country (or world) you are from, I can't say for sure. Ok, I just checked FB (you make this kind of hard, LOL) and I see you are from Texas, so it could be a garter or ribbon snake.
shyla on March 31, 2012:
i think snakes are cool but deadly earlier today i saw a snake.it was black with 2 yellow but green lines going down its back if anyone reads this please tell me what kind of snake it is.(look me up on facebook as shylawhinery
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on February 10, 2012:
Are you looking at the tiny snake that is on the hand with the pinkie ring? This snake was an adult and was only a few inches long and was no where near water. I found the little snake when I was weeding a flower bed.
In Louisiana? I am familiar with red bellied and yellow bellied water snakes and have observed, held and photographed them for years. This is not one. There is a picture of one further down in the hub that my husband is holding with both hands.
However if you are talking about Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata), then I could see the similarity except that the belly is yellow, not red, the head is not dark and the stripe is not as pronounced as it should be. I suppose it could be some sort or rare or hybrid red-bellied, but that's just not doing it for me.
According to Snakes of the Southeast, the Florida red-bellied snake, S. o. obscura, is the only red-bellied here and it doesn't look anything like the one I photographed.
After looking at the other shots I took of the same individual, I'm still thinking that this is a lighter version than usual and that it was the angle and the way the light hit it that made it look like a solid stripe.
It is hard to identify a snake from a photograph. Plus you are not considering the snake's size, location, and other factors. Thanks for your interest.
Jayd on February 10, 2012:
I am sorry. I was wrong. I didn't see the belly. That is a Red Belly Snake they are very similar to Browns (same genus)but have a bright red belly. Here is a link with photos.
I just know for a fact it isn't a Ringneck.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on February 08, 2012:
I checked my guides and none of the Brown Snakes in Louisiana have yellow bellies and they also don't have ringnecks. Take a look at my lens: https://hubpages.com/animals/ring-neck-snake-louis . I have 3 or 4 pictures of the same snake that was on my husband's hand. I think it was just a trick of the light or the fact that the snake was very fat. The other photos don't show the tiny dark stripe-like marks.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on February 07, 2012:
Thanks for the comment. I'll do a little more research and check that out. The smaller photo was taken in Baton Rouge and the larger one was in Covington, LA.
Jayd on February 07, 2012:
Great photos! Snakes are the coolest animals ever! The only thing that i would like to point out if you dont mind, is that the largest photo that you have of the Ringneck Snake is actually a Brown Snake. They are similar in size but they have the stripes running down the back while the Ringnecks are one solid dark color with the yellow belly.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on June 25, 2011:
Pinkydoo, Thanks for the comment. I'm not a big fan of venomous snakes either, but they are an important part of the food chain and biodiversity in our habitat.
pinkydoo from New York on June 07, 2011:
I'm okay with non-poisonous snakes - sort of (there was one in our basement, and my first instinct was, "AHHHH!" but then I just found it fascinating). My husband got the snake into a laundry bag, and put it back in the woods! However, POISONOUS snakes, I'm not so okay with! Nice hub!
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on May 27, 2011:
Jimmie... and you are 100% correct. I wish more people would look at all of God's creatures that way.
Selena Rossi on May 27, 2011:
Even though my mom is scared of snakes I really think that they are neat and awesome to learn about.
nickupton from Bangkok on May 15, 2011:
Excellent photos, I really enjoyed this.
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN USA on March 10, 2011:
I clicked beautiful, but that's only in the abstract way of "God's creation is amazing."
Ugh. Snakes. :-)