6 Venomous Snakes in North Carolina – And How to Identify Them

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: July 10, 2023
© Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com
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Snakes are an important part of North Carolina’s ecosystem as they help control the population of pests such as rodents and slugs. North Carolina has 37 species of snakes. But before we get into the snakes of North Carolina, it is important to know the difference between venomous and poisonous snakes.

North Carolina’s venomous snakes are sometimes referred to as poisonous snakes. This is incorrect because snakes generate their venom and inject it into their prey. Therefore, they are venomous and not poisonous.

Remember: If a snake bites a person and they die, the snake is venomous and if a person eats a snake and dies, the snake is poisonous.

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Luckily, out of the 37 species of snakes in North Carolina, only six are venomous. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at 6 Venomous Snakes in North-Carolina

An overview of 6 Venomous Snakes in North Carolina.

The 6 Venomous Snakes in North-Carolina


The Copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble cat’s eyes.
Copperheads are venomous snakes mostly found in woodland areas.

©Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

Copperheads are mostly found in North Carolina. These snakes are not only venomous but can also bite without a warning if they feel threatened. Their venom contains hemotoxins that temporarily damage tissues in the bite area. Luckily, the copperhead’s bite isn’t usually fatal if it is treated without wasting much time.

Copperheads can grow to a maximum height of 36 inches. They are heavy snakes with triangular heads. They also have cat eyes which are called elliptical pupils. These snakes are born in amniotic sacs, and not as eggs. This means that like lizards, they are ovoviviparous.

Generally, copperhead snakes make great pets as they get used to captivity and being handled. However, since they are venomous, they should be avoided by untrained people.


Moccasin Snake
Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic snakes that are extremely venomous and dangerous.

©Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic snakes. This means that they live both on land and in water. These snakes are very easy to identify. Cottonmouths have triangular heads as well as elliptical pupils and are born with brightly-colored tail tips. These tips fade to black as they age. Adult cottonmouths are colored yellowish-olive to darker shades of black and gray.

Cottonmouths are extremely venomous. Their venom contains hemotoxins that break down blood cells and stop blood from clotting. Once the venom spreads, it will take only a short moment for the circulatory system to begin hemorrhaging. Cottonmouth bites have been known to kill humans so this is one snake you should definitely avoid. They feed on small turtles, lizards, baby alligators, and even smaller cottonmouths.

Cottonmouths are often called “water moccasins”. They make good pets for trained handlers because they are usually awake during the day and adjust well to handling.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

eastern diamondback rattlesnake curled up in grass
Eastern diamond rattlebacks are highly venomous. They are also the largest species of eastern diamondback rattlesnake.


Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are highly venomous snakes with quick and painful bites that are often fatal to humans. Their venom contains hemotoxins which damage tissues and kill red blood cells. Not only are these snakes large, but they are also heavy and long. Adults weigh four to five pounds and grow up to four to five feet. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are known to prey on mammals, birds, and fish.

These venomous snakes often range from blackish-gray to muddy gray and even olive green. Their coloring makes it easy for them to hide in the wild and remain unseen. They have keeled scales and irregular blotches close to their heads.

Female eastern diamondback rattlesnakes do not lay eggs. Rather, the female carries the fertilized eggs in her body until they are ready to hatch. Then, she lays live baby rattlesnakes. If you come across this snake, stay away and ring the appropriate authorities.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Located in North Carolina, Pygmy Rattlesnakes are the smallest venomous snakes in the United States.

©Gerald A. DeBoer/Shutterstock.com

Just like other rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous and prey on small mammals, lizards, and smaller snakes. They can be spotted all over North Carolina and are the smallest venomous snakes in the United States. Adults usually measure anywhere from 16 to 20 inches and weigh about 5.4 ounces.

Bites from the pygmy rattlesnake are very painful. However, in most cases, they are not fatal to humans but are to their prey. These species of snakes attract or lure their prey using their tails. Generally, it is advisable to avoid rattlesnakes entirely and to only keep them as pets if you are a snake-handling professional.

Pygmy rattlers are usually active in the summertime, so it is important to be able to identify them. They have orange or red dorsal stripes and a thick brownish-red to black line around their eye and jaw area. These snakes will usually announce their presence with a soft buzzing sound.

Timber Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes While HIking - Timber Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes are expert climbers. Their venom can be fatal if left untreated.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

The timber rattlesnake is yet another rattlesnake that you’re likely to come across in North Carolina. Also known as the Canebrake rattlesnake, these species are easy to identify. This is a good thing as timber rattlesnakes should be avoided.

These snakes prey on shrews, chipmunks, and mice. The venom in their bites contains hemotoxins that affect cells and tissue. This helps the rattlesnake digest its prey more easily. In humans, however, timber rattlesnake bites aren’t usually fatal- especially if you get treatment immediately. If you’ve been bitten by one, contact your doctor. Usually, the bitten area turns black and swells. However, this should fall off as the skin heals.

In their adult stages, timber rattlesnakes grow to about 36-60 inches and weigh up to 52.3 ounces. They have large black crossbands across their tan or pinkish-gray bodies.

Eastern Coral Snake

Eastern Coral Snake
Eastern Coral snakes are strikingly beautiful and equally deadly snakes found in North Carolina.


The eastern coral snake is gorgeous looking with beautiful scales. It is definitely one of the snakes with the coolest patterns in the world. Eastern coral snakes have distinctive red, yellow, and black rings all over their bodies. Usually, larger red and black rings are separated by thinner yellow rings.

However, these snakes are as beautiful as they are deadly. Their venom contains potent neurotoxins that cause rapid paralysis and respiratory failure in their prey. Luckily, for their bites to be fatal, they must actually chew on their victims. If you get bitten by an eastern coral snake, quick treatment by trained personnel can avert permanent disaster.

Unlike other snakes on this list, the eastern coral snake lays eggs rather than giving birth to live baby snakes. Like other coral snakes, they feed on lizards, frogs, and other smaller snakes. Although venomous, they spend a lot of their time in hiding and will try their best to avoid you.

Summary of 6 Venomous Snakes in North Carolina

Venomous SnakeToxicity
1CopperheadVenom contain hemotoxins that temporarily damage tissues in the bite area
2CottonmouthVenom contains hemotoxins that break down blood cells and stop blood from clotting, leading to hemorrhaging of the circulatory system
3Eastern Diamondback RattlesnakeVenom contains hemotoxins which damage tissues and kill red blood cells
4Pygmy RattlesnakeCytotoxic venom, strongly hemorrhagic, and tissue-toxic (though it lacks neurotoxin)
5Timber RattlesnakeVenom contains hemotoxins that temporarily damage tissues in the bite area
6Eastern Coral SnakeVenom contains potent neurotoxins that cause rapid paralysis and respiratory failure in their prey

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