As the second largest state in the United States and spanning an incredible 268,596 square miles, Texas has a vast and diverse range of habitats for thousands of animals to call home. In particular, Texas has around 100 different species of snakes, of which 14 are venomous. Although snakes can be many different colors and have many different patterns on them a lot of them are actually brown. So, let’s learn about some of the brown snakes in Texas, including where you’ll find them and which ones are dangerous.
1. Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)
First up we have the prairie kingsnake which is also sometimes called the yellow-bellied kingsnake. Prairie kingsnakes are typically 30 to 40 inches long and have reddish brown markings over a light brown ground color. They prefer to live in areas where there is plenty of loose soil for them to burrow into, with woodlands and grasslands being particularly favoured. Prairie kingsnakes mainly live in the eastern region, although there are some small populations in the southern region. Prairie kingsnakes are not venomous and prey on rodents, frogs, lizards, and even other snakes.
2. Broad-Banded Copperhead (Agkistrodon laticinctus)
The first of six venomous snakes on the list is the broad-banded copperhead which is 20 to 36 inches long. They have a pinkish-brown to tan body with dark brown banded markings. Broad-banded copperheads possess relatively weak venom and bites from them are not usually fatal. Broad-banded copperheads were formerly a subspecies of the copperhead snake but are now classified as an independent species. However, the eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) is the other copperhead species and is also present in Texas. Both species live in forests and woodlands, but the broad-banded copperhead lives in the central and Trans-Pecos region of the state, while the eastern copperhead lives in eastern Texas.
3. Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis)
Another brown snake in Texas is the Trans-Pecos rat snake which only occurs in the Chihuahuan desert in the Trans-Pecos region of the state. Outside of Texas these snakes are only found in New Mexico and in Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, and Nuevo León in Mexico. Trans-Pecos rat snakes are 36 to 54 inches long and are a yellowish-tan color. They also have a series of dark brown to black H-shaped markings along their body. Trans-Pecos rat snakes are are nocturnal snakes so are rarely seen, although when they are they are they are not usually aggressive. They are not venomous and prey mainly on small mammals.
4. Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)
The next venomous snake is the massasauga rattlesnake of which two of the three subspecies occur in Texas. Massasaugas live in a variety of habitats — including swamps and grasslands. The western massasauga lives in the central region of the state, while the desert massasauga occurs in the western Panhandle, Trans-Pecos region, and through the lower Rio Grande Valley. Massasaugas are 24 to 30 inches long and have grey to tan colored bodies with large brown or black blotches down the center of their back. They also have three smaller rows of spots down each side. Massasaugas contain cytotoxic venom which, although not usually fatal, destroys tissue and can lead to extensive scarring or limb damage.
5. Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)
One of the longest and most common snakes in Texas is the bullsnake which reaches a massive eight feet long. Bullsnakes are a subspecies of the gopher snake and have heavy yellowish colored bodies which are overlaid with dark brown blotches. They live in grasslands, scrubland, and fields across the majority of the state, with the exception of the eastern region and the western Trans-Pecos area. Bullsnakes are not venomous and instead kill by constriction, preying on a variety of birds, lizards, and rodents. However, they do react very aggressively if they are disturbed and hiss violently while raising their head and neck off the ground and lunging at the threat.
6. Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
The mojave rattlesnake is 24 to 48 inches long and typically has a brown body with dark brown to black diamond-shaped markings down their back. Mojave rattlesnakes primarily live in deserts or in open lowland regions. However, they only occur in the far western region of Texas. Mojave rattlesnakes are one of the most venomous rattlesnakes in the world and possess venom that is both neurotoxic and hemotoxic. They can be highly aggressive and will readily strike when they are disturbed.
7. Diamond-Backed Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
The diamond-backed water snake is another common brown snake in Texas. These snakes live in slow-moving bodies of freshwater such as streams, lakes, and swamps. Diamond-backed water snakes are widespread across the state and can be seen in and around the water. They also sometimes lay on branches overhanging the water but quickly flee back into it if they are approached. Diamond-backed water snakes are not venomous and are not typically aggressive. They are 30 to 48 inches long and are brown with dark brown diamond-shaped markings.
8. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The most common venomous snake in Texas is the western diamondback rattlesnake which occurs across most of the state, with the exception of the eastern region. Western diamondback rattlesnakes are large snakes and typically range between four and six feet long. They have greyish-brown bodies with 23 to 45 dark brown diamond-shaped markings. They are adaptable snakes and live in a variety of habitats — including deserts, forests, grasslands, and rocky hillsides. Western diamondback rattlesnakes have a high venom yield but are generally less dangerous than some of the other rattlesnakes on our list.
9. Great Plains Rat Snake (Pantherophis emoryi)
The great plains rat snake — also sometimes called the Texas rat snake — occurs statewide across Texas. These snakes typically live across grasslands, open plains, and rocky hillsides. Great plains rat snakes are three to five feet long and are light grey to tan with dark brown or grey blotches. They also have two stripes on their head which form a point between their eyes. Great plains rat snakes are not venomous but mimic rattlesnakes by vibrating their tail in the leaf litter. Rodents make up the majority of their diet but they also sometimes prey on birds and lizards too.
10. Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
Another highly venomous brown snake in Texas is the timber rattlesnake which is also known as the canebrake rattlesnake. Timber rattlesnakes are large, powerful snakes which range between three and five feet long. They have a series of dark brown to black crossband markings over a brown ground color. However, sometimes you can see a “dark phase” snake which has a dark ground color with even darker crossbands, making it appear to be almost black. Timber rattlesnakes prefer to live in forests and on rocky slopes and only occur in the eastern third of the state. They have long fangs and a high venom yield and are one of the most dangerous snakes in North America.
11. Glossy Swampsnake (Liodytes rigida)
Also known as the crayfish snake, the glossy swampsnake is a semiaquatic snake which lives in swamps, streams, ponds, and ditches. However, they are only in the eastern region of the state. Glossy swampsnakes are small snakes, ranging only between 14 and 24 inches long. They are light brown on their dorsal side and sometimes have two black stripes running along their back. They also have a yellow belly with two parallel rows of black spots. Glossy swampsnakes are nocturnal and prey mainly on crayfish.
12. Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
The final snake on our list is the prairie rattlesnake which is only in grasslands in the western region of the state. Prairie rattlesnakes are typically 35 to 45 inches long and are light brown with dark brown blotches. They are highly venomous and posses a mixture of hemotoxic and cytotoxic venom which can cause serious tissue damage. They prey mainly on rodents and birds but also occasionally on frogs and other snakes.
Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda
Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.