Snakes of Louisiana

This web site is intended to provide information to the public concerning snakes native to Louisiana. Much of the content has been taken from Snakes of Louisiana by Jeff Boundy. This book provides a more detailed analysis of the subject and is available from the Office of the Louisiana Conservationist

For more informtion contact Jeff Boundy jboundy@wlf.la.gov

Introduction

Snakes are a fascinating part of Louisiana's natural heritage, but are also a source of much worry and fear among Louisiana residents and visitors. Most of Louisiana's snakes are harmless, and many are beneficial as predators of insects and rodents, as a source of income for reptile collectors, and as a necessary component of the food chain or "balance of nature." The fear of snakes in general, and particularly the venomous species, can be alleviated by understanding the behavior of snakes, and the limits of the threat they may pose to humans.

Snakes are an important component of the ecosystem as predators and as prey for other wildlife. They tend to be secretive, and when not searching for food or mates will usually remain hidden. Some snakes, particularly small ones, will feed almost daily, while large snakes may feed only once every week or two. During the mating season, usually in spring or early fall, male snakes may travel extensively to search for mates. During the warmer part of the year many snakes become nocturnal and are infrequently encountered by humans.

Snakes are not aggressive except when defending themselves. They do not pursue people, although they may swim or crawl toward someone they don't recognize as a threat. Venomous snakes are unable to strike a distance more than their body length, even less for large rattlesnakes. Thus, a distance of only five or six feet can be considered "safe" for any venomous snake in Louisiana. Despite the quickness of some snakes such as racers and coachwhips, they cannot crawl faster than five miles per hour, and can be easily outdistanced by a person.

The chief enemies of snakes are predators (hawks, owls, wild pigs, skunks, etc.), humans, automobiles, and habitat destruction. Snake populations can be maintained against any of these odds except for the latter.

Nerodia fasciata
Banded Water Snake
Banded Water Snake
16-45 inches. One pattern morph consists of dark brown to nearly black snakes with narrow tan or yellow crossbands and a pale orange band from the eye to the angle of the jaw. Another pattern morph,...
Nerodia sipedon
Common Water Snake
Common Water Snake
16-50 inches. Gray, orange or tan above with dark gray, reddish brown or brown crossbands that may be offset between the back and sides; underside pale with small dark crescent-shaped markings; head...
Nerodia rhombifer
Diamond-backed Water Snake
Diamond-backed Water Snake
18-65 inches. Pale gray-brown or tan above with dark brown or black crossbars alternating on the back and sides; dark markings are smaller than the interspaces; underside yellowish with small dark...
Regina rigida
Glossy Crayfish Snake
Glossy Crayfish Snake
Glossy Crayfish Snake
15-30 inches. Dark gray or dark olive to nearly black above with vague, dark longitudinal bands; dull yellow or pale tan below and on the lowermost scale row; underside with two rows of black spots....
Regina grahamii
Graham's Crayfish Snake
Graham's Crayfish Snake
15-45 inches. Gray or olive above, yellow to pale gray or tan on the belly and lowermost 3 scales rows; pale tan band may be present down the back; underside often with a central row of gray or black...
Nerodia cyclopion
Mississippi Green Water Snake
Mississippi Green Water Snake
16-50 inches. Dark gray-green, olive or dark gray above, with a row of small, dark squared markings along the upper sides, alternating with a row on the lower sides and middle of the back; underside...
Nerodia clarkii
Salt Marsh Snake
Salt Marsh Snake
15-35 inches. Pale gray or tan above with three broad, dark brown or black longitudinal stripes and a dark band through the eye; underside dark reddish brown with a central row of pale spots. The...
Nerodia erythrogaster
Yellow-bellied Water Snake
Yellow-bellied Water Snake
16-55 inches. Dark gray, gray-green or olive above, yellow below. Young are pale gray, with a pinkish cast on the sides, with large, squared, alternating blotches. The markings of the young begin to...