Discover the 3 Types of Rattlesnakes in Arkansas

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Published: April 23, 2022
Image Credit Gerald A. DeBoer/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Arkansas is home to at least 35 different species of snakes. Most snakes are found in wooded areas throughout the state, and some are rarely encountered by humans. Human-snake encounters primarily occur during the snakes’ mating season, in the summer and the early fall.

It is illegal to kill any of these snakes in Arkansas, whether venomous or non-venomous. However, only six of these snake species are venomous. Three of these dangerous species are rattlesnakes. What types of rattlesnakes live in Arkansas? Where are they found? What do they look like? Let’s look at the three types of rattlesnakes in Arkansas.

1.      Western Pygmy Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
The Western Pygmy Rattlesnake has a small rattle that sounds like buzzing insects.

Gerald A. DeBoer/Shutterstock.com

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Western Pygmy Rattlesnake
RangeAll of Arkansas except for the extreme eastern border
Length15-20 inches

The colorful Western Pygmy Rattlesnake lives all throughout Arkansas, except for the extreme eastern border of the state. These snakes are often found within a few miles of water, like lakes and rivers. Western pygmy rattlesnakes are slate gray or light gray with an orange stripe running along the top of their bodies, although some snakes lack this orange stripe. These snakes have black spots along their backs and sides. They also have black markings on the tops of their heads and along both cheeks. Young pygmy rattlesnakes have bright yellow or green tails. The young snakes twitch their colored tails to lure in prey like lizards and frogs.

Western pygmy rattlesnakes are the smallest of Arkansas’ venomous snakes. These snakes are usually between 15-20 inches long with small, slender tails. Their small tails are tipped with a small rattle. The rattle of a pygmy rattlesnake is so small that it can usually only be heard from about a yard away at most and sounds like buzzing insects. In Arkansas, western pygmy rattlesnakes are also called “Ground Rattlers” or simply “Pigs.” These snakes do not produce a large amount of venom, but they are cytotoxic and can still be quite harmful.

2.      Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
Known as the largest venomous snake, you don’t want to mess with Western diamondback rattlesnakes.

Alexander Wong/Shutterstock.com

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
RangeWest-Central Arkansas, in the southwest regions of the Ozarks & Ouachita Mountains
Length48-84 inches

Found in West-Central Arkansas, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake lives mainly in the southwest regions of the Ozarks and in the Ouachita Mountains. However, these snakes are only found in small pockets, and it unknown exactly how many are left in Arkansas. It is rare for humans to see western diamondback rattlesnakes in Arkansas. When humans do encounter these tenacious rattlesnakes, however, they often harm and often kill the snakes unnecessarily.

This snake is the least common venomous snake in the state. It is also the largest venomous snake, growing between 48-84 inches long. Its most distinctive feature are the bordered “diamond” markings lining the middle of its back running down the length of its body, from which it gets its name. This snake is usually grayish brown or light brown in color. Its tail ends with black and white or pale gray bands just before the rattle, which is why it is sometimes called a “Coon-Tail Rattler.” This snake is also referred to as a “D’back” or “Atrox” in Arkansas.

3.      Timber Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
The most venomous snake in the US is the Timber Rattlesnake.

Frode Jacobsen/Shutterstock.com

Timber Rattlesnake
RangeAll of Arkansas
Length36-60 inches

Found throughout the state, the Timber Rattlesnake prefers western and southern facing slopes. This snake is most common from April through October, although human encounters with it are unusual. Timber rattlesnakes live in and near forests, woodlands, swamps, floodplains, and agricultural areas in Arkansas. These snakes primary eat small mammals like rodents, shrews, rabbits, gophers, squirrels, and chipmunks. Sometimes timber rattlesnakes can be found climbing trees in search of birds.

Timber Rattlesnakes are 36-60 inches long, with dark “V”-shaped bands along the length of their bodies. Their base color is usually yellow-brown, tan, or gray. Some timber rattlesnakes in Arkansas are so dark that they look almost completely black. Other snakes also have a colored stripe running along the middle of their backs, in shades of brown, orange, pink, and even black. This stripe gives them a similar appearance to a pygmy rattlesnake. However, timber rattlesnakes are bigger, and their tail is completely black. This black tail is why these snakes are often called “velvet-tail rattlers.”

The colors and patterns of timber rattlesnakes act as excellent camouflage. When the snake coils low on the ground or buries itself in leaves and forest litter, it can be nearly invisible. These snakes are not very aggressive and do not always rattle, so you may end up quite close to one without realizing it! Timber rattlesnakes are relatively calm, but they are one of the most dangerous rattlesnakes in North America. It is important to be careful anytime you are in an area where these snakes may be living. Most timber rattlesnakes bites in Arkansas, however, occur during hunting season around August and September, when hunters fail to see these inconspicuous snakes.

Other Common Snakes in Arkansas

In addition to rattlesnakes, Arkansas is also home to at least 24 other types of snakes. Here are just a few examples of some of the nonvenomous snake species living in Arkansas.

Western Rat Snake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
Darkening as they mature, Western Rat Snakes lose some of the pattern on their heads and bodies.

iStock.com/Naja Shots

Western Rat Snake
RangeAll of Arkansas
Length42-72 inches

Found throughout Arkansas, the Western Rat Snake is one of the most common snakes found in the state. These snakes are mostly black, with white or cream on their throats and bellies. They are often called “Black Rat Snakes” because of this dark coloring. Young western rat snakes are light-colored with large dark irregular splotching. They do not obtain the solid black color until they are two to five years old.

Western rat snakes are non-venomous constrictors, and contrary to their name, they do not only eat rats. They also eat many other small mammals, birds, and bird eggs. Western rat snakes living near farms are often called “Chicken Snakes” because chicken eggs and chicks are some of their favorite things to eat.

Ring-Necked Snake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
Ringneck Snakes will play dead when threatened.

Michael K. McDermott/Shutterstock.com

Ring-Necked Snake
RangeAll of Arkansas
Length12 inches or less

The Ring-Necked Snake lives throughout all of Arkansas, usually hiding in protective cover like soil, rocks, tree litter, and other debris. These non-venomous snakes are very small and secretive, although they are commonly found in gardens. Ring-necked snakes grow up to 12 inches long, with thin bodies that are no bigger than the width of a pencil. The top portion of the snake is grey, brown, or black, sometimes with undertones of blue or green. Their underbellies, on the other hand, are bright and colorful, with shades of red, yellow, and orange. The ring-necked snake gets its name from the brightly colored “ring” marking around its neck that matches its underbelly. These colors are a warning to potential predators, signaling that the snakes will not be very tasty.

Speckled Kingsnake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
The largest Speckled Kingsnake recorded was 72 inches long.

Joe Farah/Shutterstock.com

Speckled Kingsnake
RangeAll of Arkansas
Length36-48 inches

The Speckled Kingsnake lives all throughout Arkansas in a variety of habitats. It is an elegant blue-black snake with yellow “speckles” sprinkled across the length of its body. The combination of its blue-black coloring and its yellow spots often makes the snake appear dark green. This snake is sometimes also called a “Salt-n-Pepper Snake” or a “Flecked Snake.” The speckled kingsnake is usually around 48 inches long and is a non-venomous constrictor.

Northern Rough Green Snake

Rattlesnakes in Arkansas
The Northern Rough Green Snake has rough scales that make it easy to climb trees.

iStock.com/BobMcLeanLLC

Northern Rough Green Snake
RangeAll of Arkansas
Length14-45 inches

The Northern Rough Green Snake lives across the entire state of Arkansas. It is an “arboreal snake,” which means that it spends most of its time in trees and bushes, usually two to five feet above the ground. The rough green snake is small and wiry, with a very thin body that measures 14-45 inches in length. These snakes are vibrant, with solid green backs and yellow-green- or cream-colored bellies, allowing them to blend in with their leafy habitats. They also have keeled scales with ridging, which gives their bodies a rough texture. Northern rough green snakes are non-venomous, and they are the only snakes in Arkansas that are specifically insectivores. They only eat insects and spiders.

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer and editor with passion and expertise in animal behavior and ecology. She has an MA in Comparative Studies and researches human-animal studies, ecocriticism, film, and Interdisciplinary Humanities. Kellianne is unashamed to be a total research nerd and enjoys making new connections across disciplines. She loves reading, movies, her cats, and exploring the beautiful diversity of the world.

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