9 Black Snakes in Ohio: Not One is Venomous!

Written by Kristen Holder
Published: April 23, 2022
© Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com
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As the seasons change in Ohio and the weather gets warmer, snakes come out of brumation and begin hunting prey before it’s time to mate. This is when most human confrontations with snakes occur, so it’s prudent to know a little bit about nine of the black snakes you may encounter in Ohio.

Snakes are just as vital to the health of an ecosystem as butterflies and bees because they keep the pest population in check. Despite that, many still fear any kind of encounter with a snake. What are nine of the black snakes in Ohio? We’ll look at them now.

1. Butler’s Garter Snakes in Ohio

Butler’s garter snakes in northwestern Ohio exist in isolated populations.

©Michiel de Wit/Shutterstock.com

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Leeches and worms are a favorite of butler’s garter snakes, and their diet isn’t as varied as their other garter snake cousins. These garter snakes are endemic to North America and populate northwestern Ohio. They only exist in isolated groups and are not prolific. They like flat fields without much cover as well as grasslands, marshes, and meadows.

Butler’s garter snakes are smaller snakes and average a little under two feet long. They have three distinct stripes usually cast over a black or brown body.

2. Eastern Black Kingsnakes in Ohio

Snakes in Mississippi - Eastern Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra)
Eastern black kingsnakes eat other venomous snakes.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Kingsnakes eat venomous snakes because they’re immune to the venom of all of the venomous snakes native to Ohio. They’re also constrictors. They’re mainly restricted to river bottomlands. These snakes are not a common sight because they’re secretive and nocturnal.

3. Copper-Bellied Water Snakes in Ohio

Copper-bellied Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) - Copperbelly Water Snake
Copper-bellied water snakes are in Williams County in Ohio.

©Mike Wilhelm/Shutterstock.com

Copper-bellied water snakes are usually black, but they can also be brown. Their undersides are usually somewhere between scarlet and orange. Copper-bellied water snakes grow to be about three to four feet long. They only live in Williams County and are not widespread across Ohio. That’s because most of their wetland habitats no longer exist.

4. Northern Ringneck Snakes in Ohio

northern ringneck snake
Northern ringneck snakes in Ohio are widespread in the southeast and along Lake Erie.

©/Shutterstock.com

Northern ringneck snakes are nocturnal and are abundant in southeastern Ohio and along Lake Erie. That’s because there’s plenty of suitable habitat for them in that part of the state. They like rocky hillsides covered with trees. During the day, when they are inactive, they like to hide under boards, logs, stones, and in other tucked-away spots.

Northern ringneck snakes are mostly black except for a colored ring around their neck and matching belly. This ring is usually yellow or orange, but it can vary. These snakes are one of the smallest in Ohio, maxing out at about a foot and a half long.

5. Eastern Garter Snakes in Ohio

Eastern Garter Snake on Log
Eastern garter snakes are the most common garter snakes in Ohio.

©Erik Agar/Shutterstock.com

The eastern garter snake is a common snake often referred to as the garden snake. This type of garter snake is the most common in Ohio, though it’s one of five types of garter snakes in the state. It makes dinner out of frogs, minnows, mice, slugs, earthworms, toads, and frogs. This snake is small and slender and averages about 2.5 feet in length.

Eastern garter snakes are usually black-bodied with yellow stripes. Like most snake species, this is highly variable. Near Lake Erie, there is an eastern black garter snake that’s almost all black with just a white chin.

These snakes are called garter snakes because they look like the sock garters that people used to keep their socks from slipping down their legs. They’re found around people, especially near creeks and streams. People often spot them in basements and near chicken coops, where they’ll readily eat eggs and small birds.

6. Ribbon Snakes in Ohio

Northern Ribbon Garter Snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis)
Ribbon snakes are most comfortable near water in Ohio.

©John Czenke/Shutterstock.com

You can spot ribbon snakes along almost any shoreline in Ohio. When confronted, they flee to their nearest water source. They look like garter snakes, except their stripes are always solid and never spotted.

Ribbon snakes are never far from water, and they’re swift when swimming. They like to eat aquatic animals like toads, frogs, salamanders, fish, and tadpoles.

7. Black Rat Snakes in Ohio

An adult rat black snake peaks over a rock
Black rat snakes eat venomous snakes.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Black rat snakes are the longest snakes in Ohio at four to six feet long, though they can grow up to eight feet. Their bodies are black, with a light color peeping between the scales. They hang out in fields, agricultural areas, and forests. They’re constrictors that will readily climb trees so they can dine on birds and their eggs. Because these snakes easily live in human-inhabited areas, they’re frequently killed out of fear.

Black rat snakes are also called gray rat snakes because their bodies are commonly gray instead of black. Other names include oak snakes, pilot snakes, and chicken snakes. As babies, they aren’t black and are gray with dark patterning. This makes them look like young copperheads, and black rat snakes are often unnecessarily dispatched. Copperheads are highly venomous, while black rat snakes are not.

Black rat snakes eat venomous snakes, so they’re even more valuable for pest control purposes than other species of snake. They keep the dangerous snake population down through their predation.

8. Northern Black Racers in Ohio

northern black racer
Northern black racers live in eastern Ohio.

©Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

Northern black racers live in eastern Ohio. They rely on their eyesight, so they readily approach things, animals, and people. This is unusual for a snake, but once they realize what’s going on, they almost always try to flee.

Blue racers have an overlapping territory with northern black racers in Ohio, and in this region, they interbreed. Their offspring look like either parents or some color in between. As the name suggests, blue racers are blue.

Black racers are often confused with black rat snakes, but there are a few subtle differences between them, such as length and scale texture.

9. Plains Garter Snakes in Ohio

Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix)
Plains garter snakes only exist in Wyandot County.

©Joe Farah/Shutterstock.com

In Wyandot County, there is a small and isolated population of plains garter snakes. There used to be a huge wet prairie in Ohio, and these snakes live in the last bits left of their old habitat.

This garter snake shares a lot of the same characteristics as other garter snakes, except that it’s more selective about which habitat it will live in. That is one of the reasons that it isn’t thriving despite human encroachment like some of the other garter snakes on our list.

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Snakes That Look Like Copperheads-Black Racer Snake
The black racer is an agile and very fast animal that can "run" (crawl) 4 miles per hour when it is threatened, hence the name "racer".
© Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a fact-driven creative with a love of history and an eye for detail. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2009 with a BA in Art History after a STEM-focused high school career. Telling a complex story with real information in a manner that's easy to digest is my talent. When I'm not writing for A-Z Animals, I'm doting on my 3 cats while I watch documentaries and listen to music in Romance languages.

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