Snakes can be found in a variety of habitats all around the world. Some snakes glide through trees, others burrow in the ground, and some even swim through ocean waters.
So, it should be no surprise that Connecticut is not an exception to where you can find snakes. So, what do you need to know about snakes in Connecticut?
There are 14 snake species in Connecticut, including common snakes like the garter snake and ribbon snake, as well as endangered species like the timber rattlesnake. Of the 14 species found in the state, only two of them are actually poisonous. These reptiles can be found all over the state in a variety of habitats.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the 14 species of snakes in Connecticut, including information on where each of these beautiful reptiles live and some interesting facts about each species.
Timber rattlesnakes are the first of the two venomous snakes in Connecticut, though you are more likely to see a copperhead because the timber rattlesnake is an endangered species in Connecticut. They have a distinct rattle on their tail that they move back and forth rapidly as a warning when approached. This rattle is made out of a material similar to keratin that human fingernails are made out of.
While timber rattlesnakes are venomous, they primarily use their venom for digestion and killing prey. These rattlesnakes only bite when threatened or handled and when they do bite defensively, there is less venom in the bite compared to the amount of venom injected into prey.
Timber rattlesnakes prefer deciduous forest habitats, often with rocky terrain and a nearby water source. Their dens are often found in rocky ledges and they prefer higher elevations, rarely being found at elevations lower than 500 feet above sea level.
The northern copperhead is the second type of venomous snake that lives in Connecticut, and while it does have a greater population than the endangered timber rattlesnake, its population has declined slowly over the years. Copperheads like to hide and have nocturnal habits, so they often live in close proximity to humans without being detected.
They are aptly named because of their two-toned copper color and they also have an hourglass pattern that goes down their back. Their unique pattern also allows them to hide well because they prefer rocky, wooded habitats and they are often found at the edges of meadows, rocky hillsides, talus slopes, and basalt ridges on the side of the state west of the Connecticut River.
Copperheads are pit vipers, which means that they have a pit organ located between the nose and eyes. This pit organ allows them to sense heat from different things around them, so they are very accurate when they strike.
The eastern milksnake gets its name from the myth that they drink milk from cows, because you can frequently find milksnakes living in rodent-infested areas like barns. It closely resembles the northern copperhead, though the milksnake is non-venomous and neither species really poses a threat unless handled.
In addition to barns, milksnakes can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, farmlands, developed areas, river bottoms, basically, anywhere that there is a rodent population and somewhere for the snake to hide. They are known for being secretive snakes and are often found under rocks, boards, logs, or debris.
Unlike snakes that kill with venom, the eastern milksnake is known for using a constricting method to suffocate prey. This prevents biting and scratching when swallowed, particularly because snakes swallow their prey whole.
And, while this snake does pretend to rattle its tail and strike when disturbed, it is harmless. You can tell it apart from the northern copperhead by its smoother scales and slight variations in color. It also has a narrower head that is similar to the size of the body, whereas the northern copperhead has a triangular shaped head.
Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake
The eastern hog-nosed snake isn’t a common snake and is considered a species of special concern because of the declining population in the state. However, it is very well known for its odd behaviors when threatened.
Its first line of defense is acting like a viper. The snake will flatten its head, inflate its coiled body, and strike violently. Though, as a non-venomous snake, it often falls short of actually biting the target. When scaring away the threat doesn’t work, the eastern hog-nose plays dead by rolling over on its back, sticking its tongue out, lying still, and emitting an unpleasant musk.
Eastern hog-nosed snakes also have a habit of eating toads. Toads often inflate themselves so they will be harder for predators to swallow, but the snake will use its teeth to deflate the toad. They also eat frogs, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and eggs and these snakes travel under loose, sandy soil by using paths made by small mammals.
Some of these snakes are uniformly dark gray or black, while others have alternating dark and light patches. Those with patches can be brown, red, orange, or yellow. You’re most likely to find them inland at moderate elevations and they are not as widespread across the state as some other species of snakes in Connecticut.
Common Garter Snake
Garter snakes are found slithering all over the United States, so it’s no surprise they also call Connecticut home. They live in a wide range of habitats in the state, near sea level and higher heights, as well as in urban areas and the wilderness.
Garter snakes have a darker body with three stripes, one thinner stripe in the middle and two broader stripes on the outside. Most of the time, garter snakes have yellow stripes but they can also be shades of brown, green, or blue. The longest garter snakes are up to 42 inches long, though most grow to a length of 18-26 inches.
When hunting, garter snakes flick their tongue to pick up the scent chemicals from predators or prey nearby. They also rely on their sense of vision. Garter snakes hunt small mammals, rodents, and frogs, as well as earthworms and insects.
Common Ribbon Snake
Ribbonsnakes primarily live in the wetlands of Connecticut and habitat loss has made them a species of concern in the state because of declining numbers. While ribbonsnakes grow up to 20-32 inches long, their tail makes up about one-third of their body length.
While the common ribbonsnake resembles the garter snake that is also found in Connecticut, the major difference is that ribbonsnakes are much less common. Additionally, garter snakes are heavier, have a shorter tail, and are significantly less agile, though it’d be hard to tell them apart unless they were side by side.
Ribbonsnakes are easily startled. When startled, it isn’t uncommon for them to hide in bushes or even glide over the surface of the water as they run away.
Smooth Green Snake
The smooth greensnake is easily distinguishable from all the other snake species in the snake because of its bright green color. Juveniles are olive green in color.
Greensnakes prefer open habitats like pastures, meadows, coastal grasslands, and old fields, so they have seen some decline as agricultural land has been allowed to grow over and become forested again. Because of their spotty presence in a lot of areas, they are considered a species of special concern in the state. Most greensnakes are found in the eastern half of the state.
Smooth greensnakes are of high ecological importance. In addition to preying on a variety of insects and helping keep insect populations in check, they are a major food source for animals like foxes, raccoons, hawks, and herons. Interestingly, they turn a bright blue color when they die.
Northern Black Racer
The northern black racer is one of the largest snakes in the state, being slightly smaller than the eastern rat snake that also calls Connecticut home and having a length of about 33-65 inches. It has a small head compared to the size of its body (which is much different than these big-headed animals).
While some snakes like to hide, the northern black racer prefers open, lightly wooded areas. As they prefer areas that are mowed to those that are left overgrown, they are sometimes killed by mowers and when fields are cleared.
The racer is a rather quick snake despite how long and heavy it is. However, while it is fast compared to other snakes, its top speed is just 8-10 mph, close to the pace people jog at.
Eastern Worm Snake
Appropriately named, the eastern wormsnake resembles an earthworm because of its small size of 7-14 inches and a brownish-gray body. They also are a burrowing species that prefers well-drained, sandy soil that is good for burrowing.
Because of the rocky terrain, you’re less likely to find wormsnakes in higher elevation areas. Instead, they live in low-lying areas and are most common in deciduous forests and gardens.
Wormsnakes are known for eating earthworms and other soft-bodied insects. When handled, the wormsnake uses its sharp spiny tail to push against the hands. It also uses this tail to help with burrowing.
Northern Water Snake
The northern waternsnake is really common in Connecticut and can be found in most of its freshwater wetlands and waterways. They grow up to 42 inches long and have heavy, dark bodies. They can have some coloration, but it tends to fade once they are no longer juveniles so most adult northern water snakes are dark in color.
It’s not uncommon for water snakes to be killed by people who think they pose a threat because of their similarities to the water moccasin or cottonmouth snake, which is venomous. That being said, there are no water moccasin snakes in Connecticut, so it is always a case of mistaken identity.
Water snakes move quickly through the water, particularly when threatened. They spend their time hiding in vegetation unless they are basking, particularly because the northern water snake is preyed on by many animals in Connecticut including egrets, herons, hawks, skunks, minks, otters, predatory fish, and even other snakes.
Northern Redbelly Snake
While the northern redbelly snake is very common in Connecticut, it isn’t observed very frequently because of its secretive nature. They live in woodlands, particularly areas with a lot of leaves and debris. Northern redbelly snakes are also small, being just 8-11 inches long and having a distinct orangeish or reddish belly.
They prefer wet woodlands, so the northern redbelly snake can be found on the borders of wetlands, marshes, bogs, swamp forests, and even moist open fields. Unlike some other snake species, northern redbelly snakes have live births and may give birth to 7-8 young at once.
These snakes also do not bite often when handled, instead emitting a musk and showing their tiny teeth. The northern redbelly snake is easily mistaken for many other species, including eastern worm snakes, northern brown snakes, and northern ring-necked snakes.
Eastern Rat Snake
The eastern rat snake is the largest snake in Connecticut, growing to 46-68 inches long. They prefer areas that are semi-developed, meaning that there are houses nearby woodland or agriculture because these types of areas often have a high population of birds and rodents the snake is known to eat. In Connecticut, they are most common at lower elevations like the hills and coastal regions on the eastern side of the state.
The eastern rat snake closely resembles black racers that also live in the state. In addition to their habitats being different, these snakes differ because of the markings on their belly. Eastern rat snakes have a checkered pattern on their belly and they also have a more square-shaped body, whereas black racers are round.
By being square-shaped, it allows the eastern rat snake to climb. It can be found in trees, attics, haylofts, and other structures, particularly those with a heavy rodent population.
Dekay’s Brown Snake
Dekay’s brown snake, also called the northern brown snake, has scales that range from a light tan to a dark brown color. They are most common in urban and developed areas, though they can also be found in forests and wetlands.
These snakes have a smaller body that grows to 9-15 inches long and they love hiding under old debris, rocks, logs, and similar areas. They often spend all day eating amphibians, rodents, and insects, but may also become nocturnal if the daytime temperatures are too hot.
Dekay’s brown snakes are also known for spending their cold winters inside of a den, often with other brown snakes, green snakes, garter snakes, or redbelly snakes. They do have a higher tolerance for cold than some other snake species but are still most active from March to November. While in brumation, they live in rock crevices, rodent burrows, or under old buildings, beneath the frost line.
Northern Ring-Necked Snake
The northern ring-necked snake is known for the distinctive, yellowish-orange ring around its neck and bluish-dark gray coloring. It also has a yellowish colored belly, often with black spots.
This snake is found widespread across the state, though it is more common in some areas than others. They provide a wide variety of habitats, but are very secretive, so it’s not uncommon for them to be hiding under something like rocks, logs, leaf litter, bark, or other debris.
Ring-necked snakes do not tolerate cold well, so they are only active from May through early October in the state. When startled, they are likely to run for cover. As a nocturnal snake, they are most likely to be sleeping under the cover of something during the day.
Are There Any Poisonous Snakes In Connecticut?
Yes, there are two poisonous snakes that are native to Connecticut. Both the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead are venomous.
Are There Water Moccasin Snakes In Connecticut?
No, Connecticut does not have water moccasin snakes. The northern water snake is the most common water-dwelling snake in the state but unlike water moccasin snakes, they are not poisonous.
Are There Copperheads In Connecticut?
Yes, the northern copperhead is native to Connecticut. They can be found in forested areas, wetlands, and rocky hillsides and they may be terrestrial or semiaquatic.
Are There Rattlesnakes In Connecticut?
Yes, the timber rattlesnake is native to Connecticut. While rattlesnakes are most common in the southwest corner of the United States, they can be found across the entire continent.
What Is The Largest Snake In Connecticut?
The largest snake in Connecticut is the eastern rat snake. Also called the black rat snake, this large reptile can grow to a length of more than 5 feet long. The second largest snake is the northern black racer.
What Is Connecticut’s Rarest Snake?
The rarest snake in Connecticut is the timber rattlesnake, which has an endangered status. Today, their presence is limited to just 10 towns found in the central and western parts of the state. Part of the reason they are endangered is because they are persecuted by humans, though they don’t typically pose a serious threat.
Snakes in Connecticut include fourteen different species, including two venomous snakes, the timber rattlesnake, and the northern copperhead. Even these don’t pose serious threats to humans though, particularly if they are not handled or approached.
These fascinating snakes come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and sizes. They can be found in habitats across the state.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning about them, and if you want to learn more about the wildlife in Connecticut check out the article about the types of bats that live there!