Know the Facts: 6 Black Snakes in North Carolina

Written by Kristen Holder
Published: October 24, 2022
© Tom Fenske/Shutterstock.com
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Out of the 37 different species of snakes found in North Carolina, a number of them are black, and a few of these black snakes are venomous. Knowing the facts about common black snakes in North Carolina is important so you can properly identify them. What are 6 of the black snakes in North Carolina?

North Carolina offers a diverse range of environments enveloped in hot and humid temperatures for a large portion of the year. This is ideal for snakes which is why so many of them call North Carolina home. Almost all snakes brumate around the same time in North Carolina since the state experiences a noticeable winter.

 What are some other interesting facts about 6 of the black snakes in North Carolina? We’ll take a look now.

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6 Black Snakes in North Carolina

These are 6 black snakes that are found in North Carolina:

  1. Eastern Rat Snake
  2. Cottonmouth
  3. Northern Black Racer
  4. Black Swamp Snake
  5. Timber Rattlesnake
  6. Ringneck Snake

1. Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern Rat Snake
At up to 6 feet long, rat snakes are the second longest snake found in North Carolina.

©Mike Wilhelm/Shutterstock.com

Rat snakes are also known as chicken snakes, black rat snakes, pilot snakes, and pilot black snakes. If you’re spotting a black snake in North Carolina, chances are high that it’s a black rat snake. It’s the most common snake in the state, and it often lives right next to humans.

At up to 6 feet long, rat snakes are the second longest snake found in North Carolina. In some parts of the state, they’re greener than black, and some have striped markings. They may also have checkerboard patterning on their bellies.

They’re constrictors that chow down on rodents, other small mammals, birds, and bird eggs. Domestic poultry is a high-ranking menu item for these snakes, making them a pest to some. They’re arboreal and spend a large portion of their day off the ground.

2. Cottonmouth

Moccasin Snake
Cottonmouths are the only venomous water snake in the United States.

©Nathan A Shepard/Shutterstock.com

Cottonmouths grow up to 4 feet long and are highly venomous. While some are dark brown because of their aquatic lifestyle, almost all cottonmouths appear jet-black when wet or swimming. They’re known as cottonmouths because of their signature white mouth interiors that they display when threatened.

They’re found along the east coast of North Carolina, and they’re almost always in or near a permanent water source. They’re also known as water moccasins. Cottonmouths are the only venomous water snake in the United States.

These snakes are long and girthy. They grow up to 4 feet long on average, and because they’re muscular, they appear almost bulky for their speed. Despite appearances, they’re light for their size and generally don’t weigh more than 5 pounds.

Anecdotal reports state that individuals reach up to 9 feet long. However, finding a contender above 5 feet in length is rare. They make a meal of salamanders, rodents, chickens, turtles, birds, and other prey they come across in their environment.

3. Northern Black Racer

northern black racer
Northern black racers shake their tails in the grass like a rattlesnake to deter a threat before striking.

©Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

Also called North American racers, these snakes are all black except for their light grey bellies. The largest black racer ever recorded was over 6 feet long, but they usually top out at about 5 feet. They’re thin and long like a garden hose.

These snakes are nonvenomous. They are known to lash out and bite if cornered though they’ll almost always flee if they can. Northern black racers shake their tails in the grass like a rattlesnake to deter a threat before striking.

Racers are swift and travel up to 10 mph. They eat birds, eggs, lizards, and rodents. Some individuals have distinctive white chins.

4. Black Swamp Snake

Black Swampsnake
Black swamp snakes only occur near the coastline and aren’t found everywhere in North Carolina.

©Peter Paplanus / flickr – License

Also known as the Carolina swamp snake, these snakes are small and don’t grow more than a foot and a half in length. They hang out in wet landscapes like marshes and swamps. They have a red or orange belly which starkly contrasts their black body.

Black swamp snakes only occur near the coastline and aren’t found everywhere in North Carolina. They aren’t easy to spot as they’re good at hiding in aquatic vegetation in shallow water.

They’re abundant in the few spots they do live, so if you go looking for one, you’ll find it. Black swamp snakes are nonvenomous. They hunt for leeches, tadpoles, frogs, and small fish both during the day and at night.

5. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake on rock.
The number of timber rattlesnakes in North Carolina is shrinking due to habitat fragmentation.

©iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

Like all rattlesnakes, the timber rattlesnake is venomous, which makes it one of the most dangerous snakes in North Carolina. It’s a member of the pit viper family, which means it has heat-sensing pits on either side of its face, which it uses to detect its prey.

While most timber rattlesnakes are not black, there are enough individuals in North Carolina that are completely black that they’re worth mentioning on any list of black snakes in the state. They reside in the coastal plains and the mountains.

These rattlesnakes are usually banded, but the black morph of timber rattlesnakes in North Carolina is so dark that this banding isn’t detectable. It’s found mainly in rural areas as it’s been displaced from cities.

The number of timber rattlesnakes in North Carolina is shrinking due to habitat fragmentation. Roads and other human endeavors are fracturing this snake’s territory, harming the sustainability of a widespread population.

Both kingsnakes and eastern indigo snakes eat timber rattlesnakes, and that’s because they are immune to rattlesnake venom. Other common snake predators are owls, skunks, bobcats, and coyotes. Timber rattlesnakes stick to a diet consisting of small mammals and reptiles.

6. Ringneck Snake

northern ringneck snake
They’re called ringneck snakes because of the bright collar-like ring they have around their necks.

©/Shutterstock.com

These snakes aren’t spotted often as they avoid human contact as best as they can. Like other snakes on this list, not all ringneck snakes are black. However, there are enough predominantly black individuals in North Carolina for them to find a place on our list of black snakes in the state.

They’re called ringneck snakes because of the bright collar-like ring they have around their necks. These neck rings range in color but are generally a bright orange or yellow. They’re one of the smallest snakes in the world, coming in at under a foot in length.

A ringneck snake spends most of its time hiding, and it hunts along waterways for its prey. Ringneck snakes eat slugs, worms, toads, newts, and frogs. Their saliva contains mild venom that affects small prey, but they are not dangerous to humans.

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The Featured Image

Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
© Tom Fenske/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a fact-driven creative with a love of history and an eye for detail. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2009 with a BA in Art History after a STEM-focused high school career. Telling a complex story with real information in a manner that's easy to digest is my talent. When I'm not writing for A-Z Animals, I'm doting on my 3 cats while I watch documentaries and listen to music in Romance languages.

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