12 Snakes In Rhode Island

Written by Tracy Graham
Updated: November 23, 2022
© iStock.com/sdbower
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Rhode Island is the smallest of all the 50 states. It’s less than 50 miles long and only about 40 miles wide. And even though it’s small it has one of the longest coastlines of any state with a huge 400 miles of ocean coastline. The geography of Rhode Island is mixed. The southeast is mostly sandy beaches, marshes, and lowlands because of the proximity to the ocean. But the rest of the state has vast forests, hills, and lakes. Because of the geography of the state, the 12 types of snakes in Rhode Island are snakes that can handle a seasonal climate and prefer mostly an aquatic or forest habitat.

Rhode Island isn’t a big state, so there aren’t a lot of native types of snakes that call Rhode Island home. Some of the most common snakes that you will find in Rhode Island are:

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water snakes are primarily aquatic, which means that they prefer being in or around water. These snakes live in the southeast area of Rhode Island in the lowland marshes and areas near the ocean. They also live in the north region of the state near some of the state’s bigger rivers and lakes. Northern Water snakes can be light gray to dark gray, dark olive, or black and usually have dark red or red-orange markings that run all the way down the length of their body. They are very curious snakes and they may approach you in the water fishing or they may approach your boat. However, if one approaches you don’t make any sudden moves or frighten it or it may bite.

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northern water snake in water
The northern water snake reaches up to 4.5 feet in length.


Eastern Ribbon Snake

Eastern Ribbon snakes also like to be near the water however they tend to gravitate more toward rivers and lakes than the ocean areas. These snakes are almost always dark olive, dark gray, or dark brown and have three very thin yellow or white stripes running down the length of their bodies.

You can tell if a snake is an Eastern Ribbon by its body size. Ribbon snakes don’t get to be very long, most of them are under four feet long. But they are very thin and narrow. They can look like a ribbon curling when they move which is how they got their name. If you’re fishing near the shore of a pond or if you’re kayaking on a lake or river keep a sharp eye out for Ribbon snakes. They won’t bite you, even if you surprise them. But they will sometimes put out a terrible smell if they are scared or feel threatened.

Ribbon Snake vs Garter Snake - Eastern Ribbon Snake
Keep a sharp eye out for the ribbon snake when near water in Rhode Island, they don’t bite but put out a terrible smell when startled.

©Steve Bower/Shutterstock.com

Smooth Green Snake

Smooth Green snakes have a very distinctive bright spring green color that you can’t miss. In Rhode Island Smooth Green snakes are primarily found around the coastal area. They love to hide near the edges of water but with their bright green coloring they are pretty easy to see. They’re small snakes. Most are only about a foot to two feet long. In some of the bigger cities you may sometimes see Smooth Green snakes in abandoned lots or undeveloped lots.

Snakes in Maine - Smooth Green Snake
Smooth Green Snake are primarily found along the coastal area of Rhode Island.

©Kristian Bell/Shutterstock.com

Northern Black Racer

If you see a big black snake it might look scary but the Northern Black Racer isn’t a scary snake at all. Northern Black Racer snakes are very long and some are a whopping six feet long or longer. And they do have a very heavy and wide body which can make it look intimidating. But the Black Racer is not venomous and prefers to flee from people rather than attack. If you surprise a Black Racer it may move its tail back and forth quickly imitating the rattle of a rattlesnake but it’s not a rattlesnake and it’s not venomous. A scared Northern Black Racer may strike out, but these snakes move very quickly and if you stop for a minute and give it a chance to run away it’s most likely going to speed away from you as fast as it can.

black racer vs black rat snake
Black Racer Snakes have a heavy, wide body to intimidate but they are non-venomous.

©Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Eastern Milk Snake

Most snakes avoid populated areas. But the Eastern Milk Snake is most often found near man made buildings like barns, sheds, garages, and outbuildings. Typically the Eastern Milk snake has a light colored body that’s tan or light brown and it has large red or reddish brown patches that run down the length of the body. The patches are outlined with black or dark brown. Most Eastern Milk snakes average about 30 inches in length but they can grow as large as 52 inches length. The markings on the Eastern Milk snake and light coloration can lead to people mistaking it for a Copperhead Rattlesnake. This crafty snake also will coil up and make a sound with its tail like a rattle when it’s threatened to make predators think it’s a rattlesnake. But there are no rattlesnakes in Rhode Island.

What Do Milk Snakes Eat - Campbell's Milk Snake
The markings on the Milk Snake lead people to mistake it for a Copperhead Rattlesnake, but there are no rattlesnakes in Rhode Island.


Alleghany Rat Snake

The Alleghany Rat snake is also called the Eastern Rat snake. It’s the largest of all the snakes in Rhode Island and usually runs about 72 inches long. Rat snakes are very beneficial to farmers. They eat the rodents and vermin that can damage crops. That’s why this snake is sometimes called the “Farmers Friend”.  In Rhode Island you will only find these snakes in the very furthest southwestern portion of the state, near Hopkinton and Exeter.

The Black Eastern Rat Snake in its habitat
The Alleghany Rat Snake, or Eastern Rat Snake, can be found in the furthest southwestern portion of Rhode Island.

©Barry Blackburn/Shutterstock.com

Venomous Snakes In Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of the very few states in the United States that has no type of venomous snakes. So if you’re afraid of venomous snakes but you love to hike or spend time outdoors Rhode Island is the place for you. At one point there were Timber Rattlesnakes, which are venomous snakes, in Rhode Island. But there haven’t been any active sightings of any Timber Rattlesnakes in Rhode Island for more than thirty years.

There isn’t any danger of finding a venomous snake in Rhode Island. But any snake will bite or become aggressive if it’s provoked. Even though the snakes in Rhode Island are not venomous you should still be wary of them and treat them with respect. Don’t attack, try to trap, or try to handle any wild snake. The best thing to do if you see a snake when you’re outdoors is leave it alone. Most of the time snakes will leave you alone if you leave them alone.

A Complete List Of Snakes In Rhode Island

There are only 12 types of native snakes in Rhode Island. So you may not even see any snakes during your time outdoors. But if you do see snakes when you’re out in Rhode Island leave them alone. If you surprise a snake or come up on one suddenly just stop and wait a minute. The snake will probably just go away if you give it the chance. If it doesn’t move then you should leave so the snake can keep moving. The 12 different types of snakes that you might see in Rhode Island are:

Common NameScientific NameAverage Length
Allegheny Rat SnakePantheropis alleghaniensis3.5 – 7 ft. (1 – 2 m)
Northern Water SnakeNerodia sipedon2 – 4.5 ft. (0.61-1.40 m)
Eastern Garter SnakeThamnophis sirtalis sirtalis1.5 – 5.5 ft. (0.45 – 0.66 m)
Northern Brown SnakeStoreria dekayi6-13 in. (17 – 33 cm)
Eastern Ribbon SnakeThamnophis sauritis16 – 28 in. (41 – 71 cm)
Smooth Green SnakeOpheodrys vernalis11 – 20 in. (30.3 – 51 cm)
Eastern Worm SnakeCarphophis amoenus amoenus7.5 – 11 in. (19 – 28 cm)
Northern Black RacerColuber constrictor constrictor3 – 5 ft. (0.90 – 1.52 m)
Eastern Hognose SnakeHeterodon platirhinos2 – 3 ft. (0.61 – 0.90 m)
Northern Ringneck SnakeDiadophis punctatus edwardsii10 – 15 in. (25.4 – 38 cm)
Eastern Milk SnakeLampropettis triangulum2 – 3 ft. (0.61 – 0.90 m)
Northern Red-Bellied SnakeStoreria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata4 – 10 in. (10 – 25 cm)

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are there venomous snakes in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island is one of the very few states in the United States that has no type of venomous snakes. At one point there were Timber Rattlesnakes, which are venomous snakes, in Rhode Island. But there haven’t been any active sightings of any Timber Rattlesnakes in Rhode Island for more than thirty years.

What are common snakes found in Rhode Island?

Some of the most common snakes found in Rhode island are: Alleghany Rat Snake, Northern Water Snake, Eastern Ribbon Snake, Smooth Green Snake, Northern Black Racer Snake and Eastern Milk Snake.

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