The Most Snake-Infested Lakes in North Carolina

Where Do Snakes Live
© Seth LaGrange/

Written by Em Casalena

Updated: July 3, 2023

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In North Carolina, there aren’t any lakes that are infamous for being “snake-infested” per se. However, several types of snakes are frequently found in and around water basins across the state. Snakes are an essential component of the environment, limiting rodent numbers and assisting in the preservation of a healthy ecology throughout North Carolina.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at some species of water snakes found in the state, as well as some well-known lakes with snakes in North Carolina.

Northeastern North Carolina’s Scuppernong Lake is a part of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

Water Snakes Found in North Carolina Lakes

Common Watersnake

Species: Nerodia sipedon

Common watersnake
The common watersnake frequents North Carolina’s waterways.

One well-known non-venomous snake species that frequent North Carolina’s watery environments is the common watersnake. This versatile snake displays a variety of color patterns, which makes precise identification difficult. It usually ranges in length from two to four feet. Because of its sturdy body, it can move through the water with ease.

In North Carolina, the common watersnake may be found living in lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes, among other aquatic habitats. It favors quiet or slowly flowing waters with lots of plants and food sources. These swimming-proficient snakes are frequently seen lounging on rocks or logs close to the water.

They mostly eat fish, amphibians, and small aquatic animals in their diet. They seize and restrain their victim before eating it by using their powerful bodies and keen jaws. Although they are crucial in managing local fish and amphibian populations, they are occasionally misconstrued and confused with poisonous species like water moccasins.

The common watersnake plays a significant role in the aquatic ecosystems of North Carolina. It serves as both a predator and prey, which helps maintain the balance of the food chain. Despite the fact that they are frequently seen, it is important to show these snakes respect and keep a safe distance from them so they can play their part in the environment naturally.

Water Moccasins

Species: Agkistrodon piscivorus

When Do Snakes Come Out in Tennessee Cover image

Also referred to as the Eastern cottonmouth, the water moccasin is a highly venomous snake.

©Seth LaGrange/

The water moccasin, often referred to as the Eastern cottonmouth, is a species of highly venomous snake that inhabits wetland areas of North Carolina. Such wetlands include lakes, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving rivers. Due to their unusual look and deadly behavior, these snakes are well-known by locals.

Adult water moccasins may grow to a length of two to four feet. They are distinguished by unique, light-colored crossbands or mottling, and have dark bodies that range in hue from brown to black. One of its distinguishing characteristics is the white or pale yellow lining of their lips, which they reveal when threatened and which gave origin to the popular term “cottonmouth.”

Water moccasins can thrive in North Carolina because they live in regions with lots of vegetation and water sources. They are adept swimmers and frequently bask on logs or rocks to maintain their body temperature. They can be found close to the water’s edge or even in it.

Water moccasins are poisonous and have venom that is highly hemotoxic. Even though contact with people is very rare, it is important to be cautious and respect their privacy. Water moccasins may exhibit defensive behavior by coiling their bodies, opening their lips wide to expose their fangs, and hissing when provoked or threatened.

Although water moccasins can be found in North Carolina, it’s important to remember that they are mostly non-aggressive and will usually flee if given the chance. It is advised to avoid getting too close to any venomous snakes, including water moccasins, and to call your local wildlife authorities for help if necessary.

Eastern Rat Snake

Species: Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern rat snakes (pictured) can get pretty large, but they are usually harmless to humans.

©Mike Wilhelm/

The non-venomous Eastern rat snake, also called the black rat snake, may be found in a variety of habitats across North Carolina. Such habitats include woods, grasslands, and areas close to bodies of water like lakes and rivers. This species is renowned for its spread and versatility.

Eastern rat snakes are capable of attaining astonishing lengths of up to six feet. Their body is slim and thin, coated in lustrous black scales that may contain tiny white or grey marks. Younger people may have a distinct pattern of bands or blotches that disappear as they get older.

These snakes can easily explore their environment since they are skilled climbers and adept swimmers. They forage for their favorite prey, rodents, and are frequently seen near water sources, such as lakes in North Carolina. They also eat small animals, eggs, and birds.

Ecosystems benefit from eastern rat snakes because they reduce rodent populations. Despite their size, they usually behave docilely and without aggression toward people. They may flatten their heads to resemble venomous snakes or shake their tails in response to threats. However, they are completely harmless to humans.

Eastern Garter Snake 

Species: Thamnophis sirtalis

Best Pet Snakes

Garter snakes are harmless to people, but have mildly venomous saliva.

©K Quinn Ferris/

Another common non-venomous snake species in North Carolina is the Eastern garter snake, which may also be found close to lakes and other bodies of water. It is one of the state’s most common and adaptable snake species. The Eastern garter snake can survive in a range of environments, including grasslands, marshes, meadows, and woodlands.

These snakes are quite tiny, usually growing to a length of two to four feet. They have slim bodies covered in a distinctive pattern of longitudinal stripes that can be any shade of orange, red, yellow, green, brown, or gray. A black hue usually lines the edges of these stripes.

Eastern garter snakes are great hunters and are active during the day. Tiny prey, such as insects, earthworms, slugs, and tiny amphibians, make up the majority of their diet. They have also been observed eating small fish.

Given their versatility, Eastern garter snakes can be found in North Carolina close to lakes and other bodies of water. They can be seen lounging on rocks or logs close to the water’s edge and are skilled swimmers. These snakes are typically calm in nature and are harmless to people. Instead of acting aggressively when confronted, they may exhale a musky odor or make an attempt to flee.

Rainbow Snake

Species: Farancia erytrogramma

Farancia erytrogramma (rainbow snake)

Rainbow snakes prefer wetlands settings like the coastal lowlands of North Carolina.

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

A rare and aesthetically stunning non-venomous snake species called the rainbow snake is only found in a few places in North Carolina, such as beside lakes, marshes, and slow-moving streams. It is an aquatic snake that prefers wetland settings, making it a good fit for places like the coastal lowlands of North Carolina.

With a glossy black body decorated with beautiful bands of red, orange, and yellow, rainbow snakes are distinguished by their vivid and iridescent look. Their slim bodies enable them to easily move through aquatic plants, and they may reach lengths of three to four feet.

Freshwater areas with a lot of vegetation are where rainbow snakes can be found. Such areas include marshes, wetlands, and the edges of lakes. They have a flattened form and unique scales that make swimming easier, showing how well-adapted they are to their watery environment. Amphibians, small fish, and invertebrates found in their watery surroundings make up the majority of rainbow snakes’ diets.

Finding a rainbow snake in North Carolina is a unique experience due to its elusiveness and rarity. These lovely creatures should be admired from a respectful distance and conservation efforts should be supported in order to safeguard their fragile environments because they are a protected species.

3 Most Snake-Infested Lakes in North Carolina

1. Lake Mattamuskeet

Mattamuskeet Lake

Lake Mattamuskeet, the area is home to a number of different snake species like the water moccasin.

© Vamosi

A large freshwater lake called Lake Mattamuskeet is found in eastern North Carolina and is well-known for its variety of fauna. Despite the lack of easily available information on specific snake species in Lake Mattamuskeet, the area is home to a number of different snake species that are frequently seen in the nearby wetland ecosystems near the lake. The water moccasin, Eastern rat snake, Eastern garter snake, and brown watersnake are among the snake species you can see close to Lake Mattamuskeet.

Remember that there are many other types of snakes that may be found in the Lake Mattamuskeet region; these are just a few examples. Snakes have significant ecological functions, and coming into contact with them is a normal occurrence when in their environment. It is best to keep a respectful distance and to avoid provoking or handling snakes unless you are properly trained and experienced.

2. Scuppernong Lake

Looking northwest over the Scuppernong River from the foot of Main Street in Columbia, North Carolina, United States. The distant shore is part of Pettigrew State Park.

Scuppernog Lake is part of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

©Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Northeastern North Carolina’s Scuppernong Lake is a part of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The nearby wetland areas are home to numerous snake species that are frequently encountered by visitors to the lake. Water moccasins, Eastern rat snakes, Eastern garter snakes, and common watersnakes are just a few of the snake species that may be present around Scuppernong Lake.

3. Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw

Eastern rat snakes and rainbow snakes are just a few species that are found in Lake Waccamaw.

©Victoria Caine Powell/

Southeast North Carolina’s Lake Waccamaw is a distinctive and ecologically significant natural lake that is well-known for its rich biodiversity, including multiple snake species. Water moccasins, Eastern rat snakes, Eastern garter snakes, common watersnakes, and rainbow snakes are a few of the snake species that may be found in the Lake Waccamaw region. Non-venomous rainbow snakes are a rare and protected species of snake. It is associated with aquatic environments including lakes, marshes, and still streams. It is rare to find out in the open, although it is definitely present throughout the area.

Summary Of The Most Snake-Infested Lakes In North Carolina

#LakesSnakes Found
1Lake MattamuskeetWater moccasins, Eastern rat snakes, Eastern garter snakes, brown watersnakes
2Scuppernong LakeWater moccasins, Eastern rat snakes, Eastern garter snakes, common watersnakes
3Lake WaccamawWater moccasins, Eastern rat snakes, Eastern garter snakes, common watersnakes, rainbow snakes

Other Animals Found Near Lakes in North Carolina

The lakes in North Carolina serve as homes for a diverse range of creatures. In addition to snakes, the following animals are typically seen close to lakes in North Carolina.


Several kinds of waterfowl, such as ducks, geese, and swans, are drawn to lakes. Near the shorelines of lakes, you may frequently see mallards, Canadian geese, wood ducks, and other waterfowl species.

Wood Duck

Wood ducks (pictured) are commonly found in lakes around North Carolina.

©Harry Collins Photography/


Both game fish and non-game fish inhabit lakes in large numbers. Bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted), crappie, bluegill, catfish, and many kinds of sunfish are common fish species in North Carolina lakes.


Many different bird species find refuge in lakes, which provide them with food, breeding grounds, and water for drinking and bathing. Near lakes, you could witness herons, egrets, ospreys, kingfishers, cormorants, and a number of other songbirds.


Numerous types of turtles frequently live in lakes throughout the state. You could see snapping turtles, painted turtles, sliders, and musk turtles in North Carolina.


A variety of animal species call the lakeshores and nearby regions home. Raccoons, opossums, foxes, deer, muskrats, beavers, and otters are some typical examples.


Lakes are the perfect environment for amphibians. Lakes and the areas around them are home to frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts in North Carolina.

These are only a handful of the many different species of wildlife that may be seen close to lakes in North Carolina. Depending on the lake’s location, its habitat qualities, and the season, different animal species may be present. The natural richness of the area can be observed and appreciated quite well by exploring lakefront regions throughout the state.

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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