Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: March 7, 2022
Image Credit Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

As we inch closer to spring and summer, there is one thing that is sure to come slithering our way — snakes! Snakes come out of hiding during the warmer months and are most often seen during the spring and summer seasons. For many, this is a scary time, especially for people with ophidiophobia. Others, however, may find it incredibly exciting. Identifying snakes is a hobby that many share, but it isn’t always the easiest. Today, we are going to be looking through most of the common black snakes with yellow stripes in order to help you identify what you may have found in your backyard.

Identifying black snakes with yellow stripes

There are quite a few species of snakes across the United States, let alone the world. With so many snakes all over, it’s hard to have such a general guide. Still, we are going to cover some of the most common snakes that are black and have yellow stripes.

Below, we have broken down each snake into categories. They include:

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  • common identification markings
  • habitat
  • region
  • diet
  • danger level

If you happen to find a black snake with yellow stripes, this guide will help you find out which species you have stumbled across!

Plains/eastern garter snake

Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?
Garter snakes are known for their latitudinal yellow stripes.

Joe Farah/Shutterstock.com

Garter snakes are some of the most common snakes in the US. They are sometimes called “garden snakes” because of their name and habit of ending up in the backyard. These snakes aren’t dangerous, and you are likely to encounter them at some point.

Identification: Usually dark-bodied with cream bellies, (usually) yellow stripes running from base of head to tail, under 4 feet long.

Habitat: Almost anywhere. Backyards, gardens, swamps, lakes, ponds, mountains, and more.

Region: All over the US. Populated, suburban, rural, and everywhere in-between.

Diet: Small mammals, amphibians, earthworms, minnows.

Danger level: Mildly venomous – doesn’t hurt humans aside from swelling. Secretes foul-smelling odor when threatened.

Orange-striped ribbon snake

Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?
The orange ribbon snake is sometimes known as the western garter snake.

Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com

Although these are technically a sub-species of garter snakes, the orange striped ribbon snake is a perfect fit for our description today. As a result, we did a deeper dive into this specific sub-species.

Identification: Dark-colored, black or brown, yellow stripes running from base of head to tail, often have yellow or orange spot on back of head, cream belly.

Habitat: Usually found near water, swamps, marshes, woods, ponds, streams, rivers.

Region: Most of the United States (most common in western states), Mexico.

Diet: Frogs, toads, salamanders, minnows.

Danger level: Mildly venomous – doesn’t hurt humans aside from swelling, does secrete odor when threatened (stinky but not dangerous).

Striped racers

Striped Racer - Whipsnake

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

Striped racers, often referred to as California whipsnakes, fit the description, while eastern racers don’t. Although they share a name, eastern racers are a different category of snake taxonomically.

Identification: Black or grey bodies with lateral yellow or white stripes running laterally from head to tail. Holds head up while moving. Orange or yellow bellies, small dots under head.

Habitat: Scrubland, woodland, rocks, foothills.

Region: California and the western US.

Diet: frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, birds, rodents, insects

Danger level: Low. Non-venomous, but will strike if cornered.

Common/California kingsnake

Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?
California kingsnakes can come in all sorts of colors, sometimes with yellowish stripes.

Ann May Snz/Shutterstock.com

There are two species of kingsnake in the US that could potentially match our description of black with yellow stripes; the common and the California kingsnake. These snakes are often kept as pets and now come in a variety of color morphs (specially selected colorations). They get the “king” in their name from their habit of eating other venomous snakes.

Identification:

  • Common: Glossy black to dark brown, 20+ white rings around body. Rarely larger than 6 feet in length.
  • California: Wide range of color morphs, can be black (or dark) with light bands around body. Can exceed 7 feet in length.

Habitat:

  • Common: From the oceans to the mountians and everywhere inbetween.
  • California: From the oceans to the mountians and everywhere inbetween.

Region:

  • Common: Almost all of the continental United States
  • California: West coast from Baja to Oregon

Diet:

  • Common: Rodents, birds, reptiles, venemous snakes, and almost everything else
  • California: Rodents, birds, reptiles, venemous snakes, and almost everything else

Danger level: Low. Non-venomous and often kept as pets.

Ringneck snake

Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Ringneck snakes are beautiful snakes with an orange, red, or yellow ring around their neck.

Tucker Heptinstall/Shutterstock.com

Usually, ringneck snakes are nocturnal and unlikely to be seen by humans. Still, encounters do occasionally happen, but these small snakes are harmless. They are also incredibly beautiful!

Identification: Dark bodies with vibrant underbellies of red or yellow. Small colorful ring of orange or yellow around neck.

Habitat: Almost everywhere, prefer wooded areas.

Region: Most of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Diet: Lizards, snakes, salamanders, frogs, toads, slugs, earthworms

Danger level: Low. Very weak venom that doesn’t impact humans.

Gulf Saltmarsh snake

Gulf Salt Marsh Snake
Gulf saltmarsh snakes are often called “salt moccasins”

Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Resembling a water moccasin in some ways, this non-venous snake is sometimes reffed to as a “salt moccasin”. They only live in salt marshes and are currently under threat from habitat destruction.

Identification: Thick black to brown bodies with four stripes running longitudinally from head to tail; two are usually brown while the other two are yellowish.

Habitat: Salt marshes in coastal regions.

Region: Salty marshes from coastal Florida through Texas.

Diet: Small fish, invertebrates, hunts in puddles

Danger level: Low. Non-venomous

Patch-nosed snake

Patch-nosed snake
Patch-nosed snakes snakes live in the southwestern United States.

iStock.com/milehightraveler

Although these snakes usually spend their days under the sand staying cool, they can occasionally be found coming out during the cool hours in the morning and evening. Their nose scale is believed to be an adaptation that allows them to slam into the burrows of small mammals through the sand.

Identification: Long, slender bodies. Light tan, cream, brown, or black coloration with tan to yellow-colored stripe running from head to tail down the spine. Large triangular scale on snout.

Habitat: Desert regions, scrublands, chaparral, canyons

Region: Southwestern United States and into Mexico.

Diet: Lizards, whiptails, birds, small mammals

Danger level: Low. Weak venom that doesn’t impact humans.

Coral snake

Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?
Coral snakes are highly venomous snakes that should be avoided.

iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

These snakes are as dangerous as they are beautiful. Despite their name, they don’t swim in the ocean. They should be avoided due to how dangerous their venom can be.

Identification: Long and narrow with black, yellow, and red bands across body. Always goes black-yellow-red-yellow, with black never touching red.

Habitat: Forests, woodlands, desert scrub, rocky areas, and burrows, all usually near some type of water.

Region: Southern US from Arizona to North Carolina, three different sub-species with the range.

Diet: Snakes, frogs, lizards, birds, small mammals.

Danger level: High. Highly venomous, requiring immediate medical attention.

Yellow-bellied sea snake

Black Snake with Yellow Stripe: What Could it Be?
Yellow-bellied sea snakes only live in the ocean and are highly dangerous.

Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Sea snakes are among the deadliest snakes in the world and the yellow-bellied sea snake is no different. Thankfully, they live their lives in the water and can’t even move on land. Humans only really encounter them while out to sea or when they are accidentally caught in tide pools.

Identification: Streamlines appearance with a tail like a fin. Black bodies with bright yellow bellies that can appear striped when viewed from the side.

Habitat: Lives in and near the sea. Can’t move on land. Occasionally trapped in tide pools.

Region: Hawaii and the coast of California.

Diet: Fish

Danger level: High. Highly venomous, requiring immediate medical attention.

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