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What are the Different Types of Eastern Snakes?

Eastern snakes come in a fascinating variety, from the harmless garter snake to the venomous copperhead. Each species plays a crucial role in local ecosystems, controlling pest populations and showcasing nature's diversity. Curious about the sleek Eastern Kingsnake or the elusive Eastern Hognose? Dive deeper with us to uncover the secrets of these serpentine neighbors. What will you discover?
Angela Brady
Angela Brady

There are 115 species of snakes from five families found in North America, and members of three of the families are found throughout the continent, including the eastern states. Due to the rise of exotic snakes in the wild — from escaped or released pets — small populations of any kind of snake can be found even in places where they do not naturally occur, especially if the habitat is favorable. Only two types of eastern snakes are venomous, but their ranges are large. Different types of eastern snakes include coral, pit vipers, and colubrids.

The coral snake family occurs in the southeastern portion of the United States, especially Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia. The most striking characteristic of these snakes is their distinct bands of color, usually black, red, and yellow. Coral snakes are very seldom seen because they are burrowers who spend most of the day hidden under piles of leaves and other vegetation, which also means they are easily stepped on. When they bite, they latch on tightly to inject venom, which contains a neurotoxin. Although the venom can take up to 12 hours to begin working, the neurotoxin can be deadly to the respiratory, cardiac, and central nervous systems.

A king snake.
A king snake.

The pit viper family can be found across most of the US, and includes the deadliest eastern snakes like rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth snakes. The canebreak rattlesnake found in the southeastern states is considered one of the deadliest American snakes because of the potent neurotoxin-containing venom that can cause nearly instant paralysis and death. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake, found from North Carolina to Florida, is the largest venomous American snake at up to five feet in length, and injects enough venom in one bite to kill six human beings.

Garter snakes are harmless members of the eastern snake family.
Garter snakes are harmless members of the eastern snake family.

The colubrid snake family is the most populous of all families of eastern snakes, and includes the species of snakes most commonly found in backyard settings. The snakes in this family are non-venomous, and are commonly kept as pets. The colubrid family includes the rat snake, king snake, and garter snake, and is found throughout the eastern states, from Maine to the Florida Keys. Worldwide, the colubrid family includes over 2000 species, and throughout its entire range is considered an important part of the ecosystem.

A Burmese python is a type of eastern snake.
A Burmese python is a type of eastern snake.

The boa and python family are really not eastern snakes at all, native to only the western states and British Columbia, but they are increasingly found in the eastern states, and have even begun to populate the Florida Everglades. Boas and pythons are large snakes who use their thick, heavily muscled body to constrict and suffocate prey. Very popular as pets, they are often bought by people who do not realize just how large they can become, and who overestimate their own ability to feed them live prey. Frequently, these pet snakes are released into the wild to fend for themselves, and in places like Florida's warm, humid climate, they soon establish a population and flourish. In the Florida Everglades, Burmese pythons and African rock pythons have begun to interbreed, creating a larger and more aggressive species.

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Discussion Comments


One of the best tips for snake control is pick up discarded debris in and around your yard. One time I left my gas grill cover on the ground for one day, less than 24-hours actually. When I picked up the canvas cover, I found that a black snake was hiding there. Snakes search out hiding places, so the fewer concealed spots you give them the less likely they are to stick around.


With the cutting away of wilderness and more and more people venturing farther and farther into areas that were once reserved for wildlife, the number of snake bites can be expected to increase. Still, on average, there are about 7000 incidents of poisonous snakes biting people each year in the United States.

When you think of all the people and all the snakes in the country that does not seem like a particularly scary number, unless of course you are one of the 7000. Also, this number does not include all the people bitten by non-venomous snakes, which is no picnic either.


Snakes get a bad rap. Much of what people know about them come from fictional literature, TV and movies. And for the most part snakes are portrayed as evil, aggressive and deadly. With the exception of evil, snakes can be all of those things, but it all depends on the situation in which you encounter them.

The last thing the average Eastern snake wants to do is confront a human. They know that the odds are not in their favor when they confront us, so they will hide and attempt to flee whenever these are options. So give these animals plenty of space and watch where you step and you should be fine.

And, if you are bitten by a venomous snake, take solace in the fact that about one in 500 of people bitten by these snakes in the U.S. actually die. These deaths are more likely to occur when people have severe allergic reactions or when a person bitten does not seek immediate medical help.

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    • A king snake.
      By: Eric Isselée
      A king snake.
    • Garter snakes are harmless members of the eastern snake family.
      By: tdoes
      Garter snakes are harmless members of the eastern snake family.
    • A Burmese python is a type of eastern snake.
      By: Matthew Cole
      A Burmese python is a type of eastern snake.
    • The colubrid family includes over 2,000 species.
      By: Taboga
      The colubrid family includes over 2,000 species.
    • The racer snake belongs to the colubrid family.
      By: jose garcia
      The racer snake belongs to the colubrid family.