Black and brown snakes are common in North America. These snakes can be black-dominant or brown-dominant.
Some snakes are gray, olive, or tan with black or brown patterns.
These patterns can be blotches, stripes, spots, H-shapes, or diamond shapes.
Snakes of this color combination are often morphs of some of the most common species.
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Are Black and Brown Snake Venomous?
Black and brown snakes can sometimes be venomous. Various terrestrial and aquatic snake species are identified with black and brown coloring with different types of venom.
Venomous black and brown snake examples include the feared Cottonmouth or multiple species of rattlesnakes.
The venom of these species is so potent that hospitalization is needed when bitten.
Most black and brown snakes aren’t venomous, on the other hand. These snakes prefer to avoid biting, as most other species in the US.
Black and brown snakes that aren’t venomous might still bite when you step on them or when handled.
It’s best to avoid them as they will do everything they can to avoid people in most cases as well.
Types of Black and Brown Snakes
The following common snake species are mostly seen in the US. Some of them are also present in Canada and Mexico with their expanded natural habitat.
1. Gopher Snake
Gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer) are a common species in the US where coloring is often black and brown.
The main colors of the species are influenced by vegetation and regional influences.
Often gray, this snake has brown or black blotches.
Gopher snakes can also be purely black and brown.
Gopher snakes have multiple color patterns which also depend on regional characteristics and vegetation characteristics.
These snakes are known for exhibiting black and brown coloring on the dorsal side as the ventral section is lighter.
Gopher snakes are seen in rare albino morphs as well.
2. Dekay’s Brownsnake
Small Dekay’s Brownsankes (Storeria dekayi) are often confused with Earthsnakes based on their size.
These snakes grow to 13 inches and they can be a lot smaller as adults.
They are among the dominant black and brown species found in the US.
Dekay’s Brownsnakes have a brown body with 2 rows of black dorsal spots.
The spots can be separated or connected.
The underbelly is brown with black spots similar to the black spots on the dorsal. However, the black spots on the underbelly are only seen at the sides.
This snake species is commonly found in Eastern states in almost all habitats except those at high elevations.
3. Common Watersnake
Common Watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) are frequently seen in North America. The habitat of the species is what makes many believe these are Cottonmouths.
Common Watersnakes can be brown with black blotches. These snakes can also be gray, or even red.
The coloring of the species varies considerably according to its region. Some Common Watersnakes can appear almost completely black.
These snakes have a light gray underbelly with or without black marks.
Males and females of the species can grow to lengths of just over 2 feet.
While not venomous, they are often mistaken for venomous Cottonmouth snakes and killed.
Common Watersnakes prefer water edges in the Eastern and Central parts of the US.
4. Garter Snakes
Garter snakes (Genus Thamnophis) can come in dark body colors with brown stripes and black spots of an alternating pattern.
These snakes are more common in yellow dorsal stripes with alternating black spots but the brown stripes morph are also known in the US.
Garter snakes are opportunistic and growing in numbers in North America.
They live in various habitats and eat a wide range of foods which allows them to thrive.
Garter snakes can be seen in forests, swamps, and next to streams or rivers.
They eat all types of animals and fish. Birds, amphibians, mice, and earthworms are among the foods Garter snakes opportunistically eat.
Multiple Garter snake subspecies carry this opportunistic nature and the black and brown coloring as well.
5. Western Rattlesnake
The Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganos) is often seen in a dark brown color with brown and black blotches.
The blotches have black borders and a final couple of blotches towards the tip of the tail may appear completely black.
Western Rattlesnakes can also have a dark gray or olive-like color with dark blotches.
The species is prevalent in the Western parts of the US from Southern Canadian territories to Baja California.
A wide color variation is specific to the multiple morphs of this species.
Most Western Rattlesnakes in the US grow to around 39 inches.
6. Western Ratsnake
Known for a brown to black body with black blotches and an almost white underbelly, the Western Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus) is one of the longest snakes in the US.
Some examples of captured Western Ratsnake measured over 8 feet.
These snakes can have varying colors but they can also have a brown to black main color as juveniles.
Common in the snake pet trade world, these snakes are only subject to prey when they’re young.
Western Ratsnakes are very good at capturing prey as constrictors. They wrap their long tails along with prey and squeeze them until it suffocates.
7. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) have a gray color which can sometimes be tan or olive.
The diamond-shaped blotches on this species can be brown, black, brown, and black or brown with black and white borders.
Some Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake blotches appear faded and almost indistinguishable.
Like many rattlesnakes, the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake has a potentially fatal bite.
These venomous species inject venom into prey and they can also inject venom into humans when biting.
Immediate medical attention is needed to prevent a serious effect or even death.
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes can be seen fighting amongst each other.
These fights are for territory and venomous bites are frequent. However, these snakes aren’t sensitive to the venom of their species.
8. Banded Watersnake
Banded Watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata) are found in a diverse combination of colors.
A brown morph with large black crossbands is very common.
The crossbands are seen from head to tail while the rest of the dorsal background color is brown.
Only the area around the mouth is light brown in this Banded Water snake color combination.
These snakes are highly common around water sources.
Ponds, lakes, and streams are all permanent water sources attracting these snakes for their rich food sources.
Snakes of this genus prefer water with overhanging vegetation on which they rest warming up in the Sun during the day.
9. Timber Rattlesnake
This venomous snake species (Crotalus horridus) has a long brown line running through the middle of the body.
Black chevron-like markings are visible from head to tail. The tail of the species can be completely black.
These snakes are common in the Eastern half of the US except in Florida.
Timber Rattlesnakes are adapted to multiple environments.
These include areas around rivers and lakes as well as forests, farmland, and rural terrains.
Snakes of this genus are also seen on high elevation terrains adapted to living in mountains.
Timber Rattlesnakes are absent from urban areas and they become less visible during the winter months when they enter a hibernation-like state.
10. Northern Cottonmouth
Northern Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) are found in a common brown to gray-brown color with black blotches.
The snake can also be completely black.
Northern Cottonmouths may also have black tails.
This tail tip is yellow in juvenile Northern Cottonmouths.
You can find these snakes in the Southeast where they live in wetlands with plenty of vegetation.
One of the easiest ways to distinguish Northern Cottonmouths from other non-venomous species is by their position about the source of water.
These snakes don’t climb on overhanging vegetation such as on tree branches as other non-venomous species.
11. Eastern Ratsnake
Adult Eastern Ratsnakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) have a brown or gray body with dark brown or black bands. The tongue of this snake is also black.
The species grows to a size between 42 and 72 inches on average, even if larger individuals have been found.
These snakes aren’t seen next to water sources as they prefer drier habitats.
Woodlands and pinelands are among its favorites habitats.
Prairies and even agricultural fields are known to attract the species.
Snakes of this genus are commonly found in all types of suburban areas in Eastern territories.
The snake is also common in cypress territories of Florida.
Females lay up to 44 eggs that hatch in late summer.
12. Diamondback Watersnake
Diamondback Watersnakes (Nerodia rhombifer) aren’t venomous.
Snakes of this genus are large and have a dark brown body with black blotches that have the shape of diamonds.
This coloring pattern might sometimes make the species look like a Rattlesnake.
Growing to a size of up to 3 feet, these snakes have a light yellow underbelly.
They are seen on various fields and next to permanent water sources such as small lakes and ponds.
High reproductive rates are signaled for Diamondback Watersnakes as females can give birth to 50 live young at once.
13. Hognose Snake
Hognose snakes can have multiple background colors such as brown or gray.
These colors come with large black patterns that look like blotches.
These patterns are irregular and can sometimes be seen together with other brown marks.
The Hognose snake can also be seen in a dark brown color that makes its black blotches barely visible.
Active by day, these snakes are very popular in Eastern US states.
The species is often met during the day when it fakes its death by playing dead.
14. Prairie Rattlesnake
Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) are a mammal predatory species seen in various colors.
This snake comes in multiple shades of brown. Light brown and dark brown are their most common colors.
Brown-gray and brown-green morphs are also seen within the species.
Snakes of this type have dark brown to black blotches.
Smaller black or black marks are also seen on the sides of the dorsum.
Juvenile Prairie Rattlesnakes are also similar to adults in coloring but they have a white border on their black blotches.
This snake is identified as a Rattlesnake by the rattle at the tip of its tail.
15. Florida Cottonmouth
The Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon conanti) is known for having multiple brown shades and dark blotches.
As the Florida Cottonmouth ages its color darkens as well. At one point, this snake can appear completely black.
This species of Cottonmouths is specific to the state of Florida.
It has adapted to the multiple permanent water sources here.
Florida Cottonmouth snakes are highly dangerous.
Its venom can even kill people and immediate hospitalization is needed in case of a bite.
This snake is also common in the most remote area of the state where there’s only occasional freshwater accumulation.
16. Striped Racer
Striped Racers (Masticophis lateralis) are snakes characterized by their contrasting stripes.
These snakes have an almost black body with brown stripes. 2 stripes run from head to tail.
These stripes can also be white, yellow, red, or orange.
Stripes Racers are easily found during the day as they come out looking for food.
They do this with their raised head above the ground which is specific to the subspecies of the snake as well.
Lizards are among the most preferred food of the Striped Racer.
You can see these snakes in many habitats such as fields and canyons.
They can also be found in woodlands, particularly in open areas of woodlands.
17. Brown Watersnake
Brown Watersnakes (Nerodia taxispilota) have a thick body that grows to 60 inches.
The average length of this snake is 45 inches.
Brown Waternskaes are identified by their dark brown color with black dorsal patterns.
These patterns may not be easily distinguishable due to the dark brown background color of the species.
These snakes are aquatic species. They live next to all types of water sources with a preference for streams and rivers.
As an aquatic species, Brown Watersnakes can swim.
Fish is the main food of Brown Watersnakes. They capture various types of fish at the bottom of a river or a stream.
Queesnakes (Regina septemvittata) can be gray or gray-black with yellow, tan, or brown stripes.
The gray morph can come with both black and brown stripes along the body.
Snakes of this genus are aquatic and feed on crayfish.
They can be seen next to rivers, especially on rocks where they prefer to rest and warm-up.
Queensnakes aren’t as secretive as other types of aquatic snakes which means people meet them in the summer.
These snakes prefer to avoid confrontation with humans and hide under rocks next to water sources.
Queensnakes might only move away from rocks or water sources in the evening or at night.
19. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus) have a large body that grows up to 72 inches.
These robust snakes have a brown or yellow color with dark brown blotches that features black or yellow borders.
This snake species is highly venomous to animals and humans.
It can even kill people if it injects a sufficient amount of venom and the victim doesn’t get medical attention.
These snakes emerge from burrows or other hiding places in the spring.
They can be seen in the summer and the fall next to water sources or swamps.
These snakes can swim and often live on small islands near the coast.
20. Patch-nosed Snakes
Patch-nosed snakes (genus Salvadora) come in all colors from gray to black.
Snakes of this genus found around San Bernardino are known to be light brown with connected black spots.
Living in desert and arid climates, the snake often takes the color of its environment such as the soil and the vegetation.
The coloring of the species is ideal for camouflage as it hunts on the ground during the day.
Snakes of this genus have a varied diet including eating eggs.
They can eat the eggs they find buried in the ground or sand as they have mouth adaptations to dig them out.
21. Western Black-tailed Rattlesnake
These snakes (Crotalus molossus) come in all types of colors including brown with black blotches.
Western Black-tailed Rattlesnakes also have black lines between the eyes and the corners of the mouth.
This venomous snake species lives in the Southern US and Mexico.
It can mostly be found in Texas.
The species is both diurnal and nocturnal and highly dangerous with its venomous bite.
As a terrestrial species, Western Black-tailed Rattlesnakes live in multiple habitats.
This includes deserts of the South as well as grasslands.
The snake has adapted to living at high altitudes as well.
22. Striped Whipsnake
The Striped Whipsnkae (Masticophis taeniatus) is one of the fastest black and brown species in the US.
This snake has a black body and long brown stripes as well as multiple other morphs.
People rarely see these snakes as they often make a quick escape when they feel potential danger.
While not venomous and generally secretive, the species can still bite.
This bite can be painful as the species is large.
Striped Whipsnakes can grow to a length of 67 inches.
Preferred foods for the species include lizards and small birds.
Young Striped Whipsankes cannot catch this type of prey or consume it and eat insects instead.
23. Eastern Black-tailed Rattlesnake
Eastern Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus ornatus) comes in various colors.
The species has the yellow, green, and brown coloring of various shades.
These base colors are combined with black scales, a black tail tip, and black lines around the eyes.
Eastern Black-tailed Rattlesnakes are venomous. They have hemotoxic venom that requires medical attention if you’re bitten.
However, the venom of this species isn’t as dangerous as the venom of other rattlesnakes.
24. Chihuahuan Nightsnake
The Chihuahuan Nightsnake (Hypsiglena jani) has dark brown coloring with brown or black blotches.
Snakes of this genus are elusive through their nocturnal nature. Common in the Southeast, these snakes are known for eating lizards.
Rocky soils and terrains almost depleted of vegetation are the preferred habitat of this species.
Snakes of this genus have a restricted Southern habitat and they aren’t seen anywhere else in the US.
They live in Northern Mexico territories in higher numbers.
The snakes reproduce in the spring when the female lays up to 4 eggs after mating.
25. Saltmarsh Snake
Saltmarsh snakes (Nerodia clarkii) are an example species where morphs can look completely different from each other.
It comes both in striped and blotched patterns.
Gray, olive, and brown shades are its base color. The species can have brown, yellow, or black lines or stripes.
Some Saltmarsh snakes appear almost completely black.
Snakes of this genus are mostly found around the coast. Mangroves and saltwater are their preferred habitats.
Saltmarsh snakes are a non-venomous species. Snakes of this genus are not aggressive.
They remain still in the face of danger and avoid confrontation when seeing people.
26. Eastern Foxsnake
Eastern Foxsnakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) can be brown, gray, orange, or tan. These snakes further exhibit brown or dark blotches.
Snakes of this type look very different when they’re young, which can sometimes confuse those trying to identify the species.
The blotches of Eastern Foxsnakes look lighter in the juvenile species.
Eastern Foxsnakes resemble rattlesnakes in their behavior which makes many associate them with venomous snakes.
These snakes have no venom.
They live in forests, prairies, small woodlands, and other territories with dense vegetation.
Rodents are the preferred prey of the Eastern Foxsnake.
27. Lined Snake
Lines snakes (Tropidoclonion lineatum) have a gray-olive color, a bright yellow dorsal stripe, and a white underbelly with black markings on the sides.
The shape of these black marks on the underbelly are halves of circles.
Lined snakes first appeared on prairies, natural habitats with plenty of food and no industrial or human activity.
They have since expanded to woodland edges and suburban areas.
Today, some of the highest populations of Lined snakes are seen around The Rocky Mountains.
28. Florida Green Watersnake
The Florida Green Watersnake (Nerodia floridana) is found in 2 main color variations. One is almost completely black while the other is red-brown with black marks across the body.
Growing up to 55 inches, the species shows these black spots from a juvenile age.
Florida Green Watersnakes have around 50 connected black marks from head to tail.
Snakes of this genus are good swimmers and live solitary lives in and around water.
They eat fish and amphibians but they aren’t venomous as many other aquatic species.
Georgia and Florida are the states where the existence of this species is threatened.
Its diminishing natural habitat and hunting area is the main cause of its numbers dropping in the areas the snake is most common.
29. Trans-pecos Ratsnake
Trans-pecos Ratsnakes (Bogertophis subocularis) are known for their tan color.
These snakes have brown and black marks in an H-shape on the back.
Snakes of this genus have large black pupils as well.
Adults grow up to 54 inches. The longest Trans-pecos Ratsnakes have up to 35 rows of brown and black marks.
As its name implies, this snake feeds almost exclusively on rodents.
Despite growing to a size of up to a few feet this snake is mostly friendly.
It has a docile nature and a colorful appearance which makes it one of the common rat-eating pet snakes for collectors.
30. Tiger Rattlesnake
Tiger rattlesnakes (Crotalus tigris) are one of the most dangerous pit vipers.
These snakes have a dangerous venom that is used to paralyze prey. Its venom requires medical attention when injected into people.
Snakes of this genus are seen in multiple dull and vivid colors.
It comes in a common tan color with brown or black crossbands that have light brown faded borders.
These snakes might not appear as threatening as other rattlesnakes.
In reality, they are very dangerous. They have the second most potent venom after Mojave snakes and are the most dangerous species in certain US states.
Studies on the symptoms of bitten people are rare when it comes to Tiger rattlesnakes.
These cases are rare and there’s no scientific agreement as to what counts as a Tiger rattlesnake bite symptom.
31. Arizona Black Rattlesnake
Arizona Black Rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerberus) begin life as little brown snakes.
Their color darkens over time becoming almost completely black.
Brown-black blotches are common on all morphs of the species.
The blotches turn to crossbands on the lower part of the body.
Arizona Black Rattlesnakes can become so dark eventually only the white borders of the blotches remain visible on the snake.
Growing to a maximum size between 31 and 43 inches, the snake has a well-built structure with a wide strong body.
This allows it to eat mammals and reptiles among others.
The species is venomous and dangerous and should be avoided.
Females are known to be particularly aggressive.
The female Arizona Black Rattlesnake gives birth to at least 4 live young per season.
32. Chihuahuan Hook-nosed Snake
This species (Gyalopion canum) has a gray body with brown or black blotches.
These blotches have a very specific number as they appear on the body of the adult snake. They are never less than 25 or more than 48.
As its name implies, the snake prefers desert climates and arid climates. It can only be found in the Southern parts of South US states as well as further down in Mexico.
While it prefers the more arid conditions, the snake is never too far away from water sources.
Spiders are abundant in these territories and are part of the snake’s diet. Other common foods for the species include flies and centipedes.
This snake has multiple defensive strategies. One of them is making a farting-like noise with the cloaca.
33. Slowinski’s Cornsnake
This common snake (Pantherophis slowinskii) has a common gray color with brown blotches that exhibit black margins.
Not much is known about this species as it live in scarce locations mostly resembling the habitat and the feeding principles of ratsnakes.
This species is known for eating rodents and small birds.
Constriction is used when it catches larger rodents and larger birds to suffocate the prey.
Snakes of this genus have multiple natural predators as well.
This might be one of the reasons it only hunts at night.
Most snakes of this species have been seen in Southern states.
It can be found in high numbers in Louisiana, but also in Texas and Arkansas.
This common snake species (Sistrurus catenatus) is known for having venomous saliva. The saliva is used against small predators.
Massasauga snakes are identified by their colorful bodies.
They can be either gray or brown.
Snakes of this genus also have brown and black blotches on the sides.
Adult snakes have a high resemblance to the young of the species, unlike in many other venomous species.
Juvenile Massassauga snakes have the same coloring but in brighter nuances.
Known for eating small animals, these snakes prefer wet or high humidity habitats.
These can be prairies next to the water, marshes, and riparian areas around rivers.
Snakes of this genus might be difficult to find during the colder months since they enter a hibernation-like state.
This is a time when the Massasauga snake isn’t easily found as it crawls into burrows along and not with other venomous species.
35. Black-striped Snake
Black-striped snakes (Coniophanes imperialis) have a small size and might also be known as Red garden snakes.
They grow to a maximum adult length between 12 and 18 inches.
Black-striped snakes have 3 stripes which can be brown or black.
The underbelly of the snake is of a contrasting light color, typically white, off-white, or pink.
Commonly seen in Texas, the Black-striped snake lives in dry loose soil where it can feed on frogs and lizards.
Black-striped snakes have also adapted to eating potentially-toxic prey such as large toads.
These snakes also take advantage of the loose soil they live in to lay eggs in the ground.
Female Black-striped snakes lay up to 40 eggs in the soil.