Snakes of the South: 10 Snakes That Live in America’s Southern States

A Harlequin Snake on a white background
© Scott Delony/

Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: June 30, 2023

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The United States is home to a vast array of snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous. Nowhere is this more true than in the southern half of the country. Snakes of the south range from tiny earth snakes all the way up to enormous Burmese pythons. Here, we’ll discover ten of the most interesting snakes of the south, some of which have a bite deadly enough to kill an adult human.

Keep reading to learn more about ten snakes that call the southern United States home!

An overview of 10 Snakes That Live in America’s Southern States.

10. Rainbow Snake

Farancia erytrogramma (rainbow snake)

Rainbow snakes are some of the most colorful snakes in the United States. 

©Charles Baker / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

Rainbow snakes of the south grow up to five feet long. They have medium-heavy bodies, with narrow heads. They get their name from their highly colorful appearance, particularly on their bellies. Unfortunately, humans almost never get to see rainbow snakes, as they spend much of their time in the water, and tend to hide from humans. These snakes have black bodies with red and yellow stripes running from head to tail. Their bellies are multicolored white, yellow, pink, and red. They eat primarily eels.

9. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake coiled on ground. - Dangerous Animals in West Virginia

Common throughout much of the United States, timber rattlesnakes have a limited range in Florida.


Timber rattlesnakes, also known as canebrake rattlesnakes grow up to five feet long. They have cream-colored bodies with narrow, dark brown, geometric bands. Like all rattlesnakes, they have rattles and hinged fangs. Canebrake rattlesnakes are highly venomous, and should not be approached, handled, or harassed in any way. They eat small mammals like mice, rats, and rabbits.

8. Scarlet Kingsnake (Milk Snake)

scarlet kingsnake slithering

Milk snakes are common throughout much of the United States, including Florida and the Great Lakes.


Scarlet kingsnakes grow up to 30 inches long and have slender bodies with narrow heads. Milk snakes and scarlet kingsnakes are two subspecies of the same snake. Each has a different coloring. Scarlet kingsnakes are bright red, with yellow and black stripes. Milk snakes are cream-colored, with brown splotches ringed with black. Neither subspecies is venomous. They eat mostly lizards, like anoles and skinks, as well as rodents and other snakes.

7. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake

While western diamondback rattlesnakes are found in the southwestern United States, eastern diamondbacks rule the southeastern region.

©Chase D’animulls/

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes of the south are large and dangerous. They grow up to eight feet long and have one of the deadliest bites in North America. These snakes have the characteristic diamond-like pattern of rattlesnakes. They are made up of scales of almost every shade of brown. These snakes live in thickly vegetated areas, where they hunt small mammals, like rats, rabbits, and mice. Despite their deadly bite, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes only bite as a last means of self-defense.

6. Red-bellied Snake

Red-bellied Black Snake

These snakes are common throughout the eastern half of the United States, with the exception of the Florida panhandle.

©Ken Griffiths/

Red-bellied snakes of the south are tiny, growing only up to ten inches long. They may be black with red bellies, all over brown, gray, or even brown with an orange stripe. They’re nonvenomous and live in many suburban and forested areas. Red-bellied snakes eat insects, slugs, and worms. When threatened, they curl their lips up to show their teeth.

5. Copperhead

Copperhead Snake (Agkistrodon contortrix)

One of the most widespread snakes in North America, the copperhead is absent from the Great Lakes and most of Florida.

©Creeping Things/

Copperhead snakes of the south grow up to 40 inches long. They have venomous bites, though they’ve never been responsible for a human fatality. These snakes are light brown with characteristic hourglass-shaped dark brown bands. They have medium-heavy bodies, with triangular heads and vertically elliptical pupils. Copperheads often hide under buildings, near building debris, or beneath bushes or other vegetation. They mainly eat small mammals, like mice, gophers, and rats.

4. Central Florida Crowned Snake

Florida Crowned Snake Tantilla relicta

This snake of the south has one of the smallest ranges of all North American snakes.

©Alessandro Catenazzi / Creative Commons – Original / License

Central Florida crowned snakes are tiny, with adults growing only to nine inches long. They only live in certain parts of central and eastern Florida. These snakes are very pale in color, with jet-black heads. They’re fossorial, which means they spend most of their time underground. Central Florida crowned snakes eat mostly insects, like worms. They’re nonvenomous and rarely seen by people.

3. Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)

Side view of a Cottonmouth snake, ready to strike

One of the most infamous snakes of the south, the cottonmouth gets its name from the cottony white inside of its mouth.


Cottonmouths are highly venomous members of the pit viper family. They have broad, triangular heads with large venom glands, vertically elliptical pupils (like a cat’s eyes), and fangs. They’re typically dusky brown or gray, with darker hexagonal bands. Cottonmouths grow up to four feet long. They’re known to aggressively stand their ground when humans threaten or approach them. They eat a wide variety of prey, including baby alligators, baby turtles, birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and small mammals.

2. Black Swamp Snake

Black Swampsnake

At birth, black swamp snakes are only 2-3 inches long.

©Peter Paplanus / flickr – Original / License

Black swamp snakes of the south grow up to 22 inches long. They have heavy bodies with narrow heads and black eyes. Their backs and sides are dark brown or black, while their bellies are bright red and lack markings. They live in the southeastern United States, where they spend most of their time in the water. These snakes eat frogs, tadpoles, and small fish. 

1. Coral Snake 

Eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) are graceful, slender snakes whose length ranges between 2 and 3 feet when they’re mature.

One of the most venomous snakes of the south, the coral snake is found only in the southeastern United States.

©Patrick K. Campbell/

Coral snakes are beautiful and deadly. They live in the extreme southeastern part of North America. These snakes grow up to four feet long, with narrow bodies and head the same width as their bodies. They’re black, with narrow yellow stripes bordering thicker red stripes. Despite their lethal bite, coral snakes are shy and rarely encountered by humans. They eat mostly other snakes and lizards, and live on the ground, near freshwater.

Summary of 10 Snakes That Live in American’s Southern States

1Coral SnakeX
2Black Swamp Snake
3Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)X
4Central Florida Crowned Snake
6Red-bellied Snake
7Eastern Diamondback RattlesnakeX
8Scarlet Kingsnake (Milk Snake)
9Timber RattlesnakeX
10Rainbow Snake

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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