Brown Snake With Black Spots: What Is It and Is It Venomous?

Written by Megan Martin
Published: February 22, 2023
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There are over 3000 different species of snakes in the entire world. They can come in many different shapes and sizes, and some may even pack a venomous bite. With so many different species, identification can get tricky, especially if you aren’t a professional. As a result, if you come across a brown snake with black spots, you may be wondering just what it is.

This complete guide will help you learn more about the brown snake with black spots you’ve seen, including whether or not it’s venomous. Even if a snake isn’t venomous, however, it’s important to be careful and avoid handling them as much as possible. Snakes are still wild animals, and their bites can introduce harmful bacteria even without venom. Plus, even for the most harmless snakes, handling can cause them unnecessary stress.

With that being said, here is more information about seven brown snakes with black spots! Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in. 

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What Snake Is Brown With Black Spots?

When it comes to identifying a brown snake with black spots, it can be tricky. That’s because this specific pattern is actually quite common in the snake world, with many different species sporting this coloration. 

Below, you’ll be able to learn more about 7 common brown snakes with black spots. 

DeKay’s Brown Snake

Snakes in Maine - DeKay's Brown Snake (Northern Brown Snake)
As a smaller species of snake, adult DeKay’s brown snakes generally don’t grow longer than 12 inches.

©Jay Ondreicka/

DeKay’s brown snake (Storeria dekayi), also known as the brown snake, is a nonvenomous species found in North America and Central America. This snake can be brown or light gray, and it has a line running down its dorsal side that is a lighter color. This stripe is then bordered by black spots. It’s a smaller species, with most adults growing no larger than around 12 inches long. The longest brown snake ever recorded was around 19 inches long, however.

Because the brown snake is so small, you won’t see it going after larger prey. Instead, this brown snake with black spots likes to eat animals like earthworms and slugs. The brown snake may be preyed on by toads, frogs, birds, and large mammals. 

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

eastern diamond back rattlesnake on road
Unlike DeKay’s brown snakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are large and highly venomous.

©Chase D’animulls/

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the largest species of rattlesnake. Not only that, but this brown snake with black spots also just so happens to be the most venomous snake in all of the United States.

One of the best ways to identify the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is by its unique pattern. While it is a brown snake with black spots, a closer inspection will reveal a unique fact about this snake’s scales. Rather than just having plain, organic spots, the eastern diamondback’s spots actually take the shape of a diamond. This is where they get their name from.

You can also identify them by their angular head — which is common for venomous snakes — as well as their size. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes can easily reach lengths up to 8 feet long. However, there have been larger ones recorded in the past.

Want to know an interesting fact about rattlesnakes? Their rattles are made out of keratin. Keratin makes up various parts of our bodies too! Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin, a new segment will grow on its rattle, just like rings on a tree. This helps to tell you how old a rattlesnake is just at a glance, although they can lose segments to predators. 

Eastern Fox Snake

Juvenile Eastern Fox Snake
With large black spots all over their bodies, the coloration of eastern fox snakes is quite similar to dalmatians.

©ML Howard/

The eastern fox snake (Pantherophis gloydi) almost resembles the dalmatian of snakes! They have a light brown to beige color with large black spots all over their body. Their underside, however, is much lighter than their dorsal side, with a yellow and black checkered pattern. 

Although the eastern fox snake isn’t a fully aquatic species, it is most commonly found in wetlands or around rivers, lakes, and streams. You may also find them in dry areas like open woodlands or fields too, however. They’re strong swimmers and can be seen swimming long distances in freshwater.

Typically, you will only find this nonvenomous species around the Great Lakes in the northern United States and southern Canada. 

Gopher Snake

gopher snake
Gopher snakes shake their tails like rattlesnakes and even lunge at threats, but they aren’t venomous and they don’t bite.


When you first see this brown snake with black spots, you might think it’s a rattlesnake. This is because, aside from resembling these venomous species in coloration, gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer) also have a unique defense mechanism. 

Although they are nonvenomous, gopher snakes will shake their tails when threatened to help them resemble a rattlesnake ready to strike. If this doesn’t work, they’ll lunge for you—but not to bite. Instead, they’ll hit you with a closed mouth, using the impact of their blunt nose to tell predators to leave.

If you’re not familiar with the term “gopher snake”, it may be because you know one of the other common names for this brown snake with black spots. These can include coast gopher snake, western gopher snake, or even the Pacific gopher snake.

Northern Cottonmouth

Northern Cottonmouth
Cottonmouths are venomous snakes.

©Ad Konings/

You can identify the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) by the inside of its mouth, which is a stark white compared to the pink or red you may commonly see in other snakes. Their genus name, Agkistrodon, is derived from the Greek word, ankistron. This can be translated to mean fishhook, which can relate to either the cottonmouth’s hooked fangs or their preference for eating small fish. Their species name, piscivorus, is a direct reference to their love of fish. 

Unlike many of the other brown snakes with black spots that we’ve met so far in this list, the cottonmouth is a venomous species of snake. They’re not outwardly aggressive toward humans, but they won’t flee, either. This means that, if you don’t spot them early, you may accidentally step on them due to their coloration. This can lead to a dangerous run-in for both you and the snake. 

Cottonmouths are most commonly found in the American southeast. They thrive in humid temperatures near water sources. Along with fish, they have a diverse diet that can be made up of animals like amphibians, lizards, turtles, and small mammals like rodents. As adults, their diet increases even further to contain other snakes, including other cottonmouths, and young alligators. 

This species is made up of brown snakes with black spots. They’re medium to large in sizing, growing to be up to four feet long. 

Prairie Rattlesnake

Prairie Rattlesnake
There are two different subspecies of the prairie rattlesnake, and both are venomous.


The prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) is another venomous brown snake with black spots that you may encounter. They are most commonly seen in the western region of North America, including the western United States, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico. There are two different subspecies. 

Prairie rattlesnakes resemble many other species of rattlesnakes. They have diamond-shaped heads due to their venom glands, and they are light brown with dark brown to black spots on their body. They prefer to live on the ground, but they have been observed climbing trees. As they typically live in the Great Plains, they have adapted to change their activity based on the temperature, being active during the day in cooler months and at night in warmer months. 

Because they have such a widely ranged habitat, the prairie rattlesnake’s diet is equally diverse. They have been known to eat reptiles, including other snakes, and amphibians. However, their main diet is made up of small mammals, such as mice and prairie dogs. 

Timber Rattlesnake

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey
Timber rattlesnakes are one of only two venomous snakes in the New England region of the United States.

©Joe McDonald/

Also known as the canebrake rattlesnake or the banded rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is the third brown snake with black spots that is also a rattlesnake on this list. In the United States, it is the only rattlesnake you will find in the northeastern region, and it is one of only two venomous species in the New England area. 

While you can identify them by their brown scales and black spots, as well as their unique region, you can also tell the timber rattlesnake by its size. They can grow to be up to around five feet long. However, they have been recorded to grow as large as over six feet long and weigh around three pounds. 

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eastern diamondback rattlesnake curled up in grass
The eastern diamondback is the biggest rattlesnake in North America

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About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

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