Black Snake with White Stripes – What Could it Be?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: March 11, 2022
Image Credit Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Finding a snake in your yard is almost inevitable in many parts of the United States, especially as summer and spring arrive. When it comes to snakes, part of being safe and doing the right thing is knowing what kind of snake you are looking at. Today, we are going to help you identify the most common black snakes with white stripes here in the US. While this isn’t a complete list (there are over 3,000 species of snake out there, you know), it will probably cover the most likely culprits that you could find slithering into your yard.

Black Snake with White Stripes – What Could it Be?

Black and brown are probably the most common colors that a snake could have, especially here in the United States. Thankfully, adding the secondary feature of “white stripes” really narrows things down. In order to keep things neat and categorized, we have broken down each species of black snake with white stripes into a few key elements:

  • Appearance
  • Range
  • Habitat
  • Diet
  • Danger level

Using this guide, you can easily identify the black snake with white stripes you found in your yard or while on a hike. Let’s get started.

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Eastern Garter Snake

Black Snake with White Stripes - What Could it Be?
Garter snakes are some of the most common species of snake seen in the US.

Erik Agar/Shutterstock.com

The eastern garter snakes (and all other species of garter snake) are some of the most common snakes you can find in the US. They come in quite a few colorations, but black is one of the most common ones. These common snakes are often seen in gardens, which is why people incorrectly refer to them as “garden snakes.”

Appearance: Black, grey, or brown bodies. Three longitudinal stripes run from head to tail that can be yellow or white. Occasionally come in a more checkered pattern, generally found on lighter-colored snakes. Can grow to 5 feet in length.

Range: Most of the eastern United States, primarily in the south.

Habitat: Meadows, marches, woodlands, forests, and suburban areas.

Diet: Worms, slugs, frogs, toads, and salamanders.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenomous, but will strike if overhandled.

Yellow Rat Snake

Black Snake with White Stripes - What Could it Be?
There are many types of rat snakes, but the black and yellow subspecies are most likely to be black with white stripes.

Realest Nature/Shutterstock.com

The yellow rat snake is probably the second most likely snake you will see in your yard. This long snake can grow over 6 feet long, and is easily confused with the eastern garter snake. Rat snakes are slightly more distributed than garter snakes, however.

Appearance: Black bodies with faint white or yellow colorations between the scales. Different species of rat snakes can have four black stripes running down their backs, especially the yellow rat snake. Lighter-colored belly, usually cream or white.

Range: Most of the southeast, northeast, and into the midwest.

Habitat: Almost all habitats. Hills, forests, abandoned buildings, barns, suburbs, fields.

Diet: Mice, rats, squirrels, birds, eggs.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenomous, but will release a musky odor when threatened.

California Kingsnake

California Kingsnake
The California kingsnake has a vast variety of solid colors with stripes.

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

The California kingsnake is one of the prettiest snakes on our list and is, as the name shows, found in California. Kingsnakes are common across much of the United States and they come in a large variety of colors. Additionally, California kingsnakes are often kept as pets because of their famed mild nature.

Appearance: Vast variety of solid colors with stripes. Often white with strong black stripes or black with strong white stripes. Can grow up to 4 feet in length.

Range: Southwestern states and into Baja Mexico, California coast up through Oregon.

Habitat: Adaptable. Often found in woodlands, forests, grasslands, fields, and deserts.

Diet: Other snakes (including venomous ones), rodents, lizards, frogs, birds.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenomous and known for their mild disposition. Often kept as pets.

Common Kingsnake

Eastern Kingsnake
The common kingsnake has a black body with strong white stripes.

iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

There are a few species of kingsnake, and the common kingsnake is often known as the eastern kingsnake. Similar to the California kingsnake, these amazing animals are called the “king” because of their diets that mainly consist of other snakes. Although they come in different colors and patterns, eastern kingsnakes are often black and white.

Appearance: Black bodies with strong white stripes. Can grow up to 4 feet in length.

Range: Eastern United States

Habitat: Anywhere from the ocean to the mountains and anywhere in-between.

Diet: Other snakes (including venomous ones), rodents, lizards, frogs, birds.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenomous and known for their mild disposition. Often kept as pets.

Southern Black Racer

Black Snake with White Stripes - What Could it Be?
Black racers are usually solid black, but their white underbellies can make them appear striped.

Psychotic Nature/Shutterstock.com

The southern black racer is named after its ability to slither incredibly fast. These common snakes are long and thin and can be found in most places across the united states. An interesting fact is that they really don’t like being handled, even after spending months in captivity. When handled, they will strike and release a foul-smelling musk.

Appearance: Long, thin bodies with jet black backs. Grey bellies with white chins. Can grow up to 5 feet in length.

Range: Eastern United States from the Florida Keys up through Maine. Other species of racer are found in different parts of the US.

Habitat: Forests, woodlands, meadows, prairies, sandhills, and deserts.

Diet: Lizards, insects, mammals, eggs, small snakes, eggs.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenomous, but won’t tolerate being handled. Can release foul-smelling odor.

Queen Snake

Black Snake with White Stripes - What Could it Be?
Queen snakes are brow, grey, or olive with clear stripes on their bellies.

Nathan A Shepard/Shutterstock.com

The queen snake is a semi-aquatic snake species that goes by a great many names (banded water snake, brown queen snake, diamond-back water snake, leather snake, moon snake, just to name a few). Although it can look extremely similar to a garter snake, a quick look at the belly is a great way to tell the difference between the two. Queen snakes have stripes on their belly while garter snakes do not.

Appearance: Black, olive, grey, or dark brown bodies. Peach, yellow, or stained white stripes running down its back, with similar stripes running down its belly. Can grow up to 2-3 feet in length.

Range: Piedmont and mountainous regions of the eastern US and into the midwest from the Great Lakes to Louisiana.

Habitat: Aquatic snakes that can be found near streams, ponds, and more.

Diet: Crayfish, fish, small aquatic animals.

Danger Level: Low. Nonvenemous, but will release foul-smelling odor if mishandled.

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black and white king snake
King snakes are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Least Concern.
Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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