Maryland is one of the US states with a high number of non-venomous snakes. Fossorial, ground snakes, aquatic, and arboreal species are found here.
Many snakes in Maryland are found close to streams and ponds. Woodlands and the edges of woodlands also tend to attract multiple species.
Snakes in the state are diverse and many are colorful and long-living. Eastern Kingsnakes are an example species that lives a long life.
Venomous Snakes in Maryland
There are only 2 species of venomous snakes in Maryland. Eastern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnakes are the only venomous snakes in the state.
These snakes often overwinter in dens together. Some non-venomous species in the state might also overwinter in shared dens with Eastern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake venomous snakes.
1. Eastern Copperhead
Eastern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) are the most widespread venomous snakes in Maryland. One of their distinct traits is their rather non-aggressive nature.
This is a species that can still bite, however. Its bites are rarely fatal but they need medical attention.
Brown coloring with red nuances differentiates the Eastern Copperhead from other venomous species.
This is a snake also identified by its thick body which grows to a full size of at least 20 inches, reaching sizes of over 30 inches.
Highly active from spring to fall, the Eastern Copperhead hibernates in crevices and dens on its own or with Timber Rattlesnakes, the other species of venomous snakes in Maryland.
Eastern Copperhead snakes are known to be nocturnal but this can change on cool days of spring, summer, and fall.
The likelihood of being bitten by this species is small unless you provoke or step on the snake.
One of the main problems with the species is that it relies on freezing techniques as it doesn’t flee when spotting humans.
This is associated with the excellent camouflage of its light and dark brown coloring.
Eastern Copperhead snakes stand still when surprised by humans.
2. Timber Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are one of the only 2 species of venomous snakes in Maryland. This species is more widespread in other Eastern states.
A base gray color is specific to this snake, together with black crossbands and brown coloring.
This snake is known for its venomous bite which requires immediate attention.
The toxic venom of the Timber Rattlesnake is highly dangerous and it may kill people in large amounts.
Furthermore, this species is more dangerous due to its long fangs.
One of the most common periods when people encounter a snake is the summertime. Gravid females tend to be spotted a bit more than males as they rest in direct sunlight for warmth.
Males may be spotted looking for prey. Different frogs and rodents are preferred by the species.
Wintertime marks an overwintering period when the snake retreats into dens away from humans’ sight.
It shares its dens with other venomous snakes across The Eastern Coast of the United States.
Non-venomous Snakes in Maryland
1. Common Watersnake
Various shades of brown mark this species (Nerodia sipedon) together with black, seen on a few adults as well.
The combination of brown and black coloring is what inspires the various nicknames of the species such as The Brown Watersnake or the Black Adder.
A common coloring of the snake around water sources in the state includes a light brown color with dark brown crossbands.
As a water snake, the species is comparable to and larger than other species. It’s even larger compared to the snakes living on dry land.
It can reach a size of more than 4 feet.
While a large and common snake, The Common Watersnake is not a venomous species.
Only the larger adults of the species build up the courage to bite. This is a painful bite due to the size of the snake.
The behavior of the species is initially marked by a low biting intention as it prefers to flee first and only to bite whenever cornered, stepped on, or roughly handled.
2. Common Garter Snake
The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is one of the species with the highest coloring variation in Eastern parts of North America, including Maryland.
This species can have a plan color with stripes or morphs with blotches and stripes.
A brown and black base color backed by contrasting dorsal yellow and orange stripes are common morphs of this species that live close to water, prairies, and woodlands.
The species is known to bite whenever roughly handled. Its low-venom saliva is only meant to be used against small prey and it doesn’t affect humans.
Its saliva can be used against prey such as crayfish, snails, and slugs. Small prey is characteristic of this species.
Slightly larger species sharing their habitat can eat the juveniles of the species as well.
Hawks and owls are among the birds that can prey on the young of the species.
Even the American bullfrog is a species that prey on young Common Garter Snakes.
3. Eastern Ratsnake
A black snake species (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) as an adult, the Eastern Ratsnake is one of the larger species in the state.
Humans are some of the most common causes of the numbers of this snake diminishing as people kill it wrongly associating the species with venomous snakes.
In Maryland, Eastern Ratsnakes overwinter in the same dens as Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Copperheads, both being highly venomous species.
Eastern Ratsnakes are also among the species that are easily spotted through their adaptability to different habitats.
They can be seen on the ground or under leaf litter, similar to burrower snakes.
Good climbing abilities also see Eastern Ratsnakes up on trees.
The species uses its strong body to constrict its prey.
It doesn’t have many predators once it reaches adulthood but it often falls prey to predators as a juvenile.
Hawks and owls are among the flying predators the juveniles of the snake fall prey to the most.
4. Dekay’s Brownsnake
One of the common species around water sources is Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi). This snake is short and has a wide or robust body.
It can be found next to water sources across the state and throughout the Southeastern parts of the US even in higher numbers.
The snake is seen during the summer when it comes out looking for soft prey such as slugs and snails.
It also comes out to mate and gives birth. Females give birth directly to young snakes which have a lighter color.
This small species only measures up to 10 inches as juveniles and adults only reach a length of 12 inches.
Females give birth to around 8-10 live young in the summer which is often prey to larger snakes.
5. Ring-necked Snake
Snakes of the Ring-necked genus (Diadophis punctatus) get their name inspiration from the colored ring behind their heads.
A yellow ring on a black or gray plain color is a common color combination seen on the species.
Its ventral coloring is different from other species as well. It has a red ventral color as opposed to the more common white and yellow ventral coloring.
This red coloring is believed to be an evolutionary trait. Red is interpreted as a potentially poisonous color by many predator species.
Its bright coloring is used as a defensive technique as this species plays dead when under threat. It turns upside down exposing its red ventral coloring.
The snake doesn’t bite when handled as it prefers to play dead if it feels threatened.
Ring-necked Snakes are among the species known for laying eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Eggs are deposited under rocks or logs, as well as in different secluded locations.
Many Ring-necked Snakes live secretive lives as they might even dig their way into the ground. Loose soil is needed for the snake to make its way underground.
6. Eastern Worm Snake
Eastern Worm Snakes (Carphophis amoenus) are a fossorial species and snakes that spend more time underground compared to Ring-necked Snakes.
However, this doesn’t mean Eastern Worm Snakes don’t share some of the coloring traits of Ring-necked snakes such as having bright red coloring.
This species also comes in brown with yellow ventral coloring but none of its morphs are easy to spot due to its burrowing lifestyle.
Spending most days underground, the Eastern Worm Snake is a species that is also active at night.
It starts its daily activities in the evening, in loose soil.
Females of the species are most likely to be spotted compared to males.
Woodlands are among the most common habitats for the Eastern Worm Snake and a place to spot females guarding their eggs.
Almost all female Eastern Worm Snakes show a tendency to remain in the area of their laid clutches of eggs.
While these snakes have 12 teeth, they don’t bite and they don’t try to bite humans when handled.
7. North American Racer
Unlike Eastern Wormsnakes (Coluber constrictor) which live in woodlands, the North American Racer is a species that prefers open areas.
Its grass-covered fields without many trees attract these snakes the most.
The North American Racer can be seen raising its head looking for prey in this habitat. It has a black color so it may be distinguishable when spotted in the grass.
Rabbits are among the common prey this snake can go for. It can also consume toads and frogs since it also lives next to the water.
This species can also live in areas with medium or tall vegetation and trees. As a potent climber, it can also move up for birds and eggs.
Bites of the species aren’t properly documented by it’s believed the North American Racer can bite.
However, direct bites of the species are believed to be rare.
Initial warning signs of the snake are sufficient to make most people back away.
This species rattles its tail similar to the Timber Rattlesnake, one of the venomous species of Maryland.
8. Rough Greensnake
Rough Greensnakes (Opheodrys aestivus) are also climbers as North American Racers at times.
These green snakes are smaller and might make their way onto trees more to escape predators.
The reduced size of the Rough Greensnake makes it a viable prey for different birds and other ground-level predators such as foxes.
You can identify this species by its uniform neon green dorsal color and its faded yellow ventral color.
This small snake cannot bite and prefers to flee into vegetation whenever spotting humans.
A weakness in front of predators, the reduced size of The Rough Greensnake doesn’t stop it from finding the best defensive techniques.
Animals that gather in numbers can do so to minimize predation risks.
Female Rough Greensnakes are among the fewer females that lay eggs in communal nests.
This isn’t mandatory in the case of all females but it tends with most females.
As a result, communal nests of Rough Greesnake eggs have more eggs than with other species. Up to 70 eggs can be uncovered in a single nest.
9. Eastern Milksnake
The Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) is one of the most colorful species of Maryland. The state still has stable populations of the species which faces diminishing numbers in other states.
The colorful nature of the species makes it vulnerable in front of humans who want to collect it for the snake pet trade industry.
Large brown or brown to red blotches are spotted on the snake which has a base gray color or almost a white base color.
Its brown blotches or saddles have black margins giving a more contrasting look to the species.
This is a small snake from the colubrid family that may be encountered in the pet industry more than in the wilderness.
Handling the snake is possible but Eastern Milsnakes are known to bite on occasion.
These bites aren’t venomous or highly painful due to the smaller size of the snake.
Snakes of this family are long, as they can grow to more than 30 inches, but are a slender species.
10. Eastern Hognose Snake
One of the easiest ways to identify the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) is to assess its snout. This species has an upturned snout.
Identifying this species by coloring can be more difficult as it comes in different color combinations and even in plain colors.
A plain black morph is common for the Eastern Hognose snake.
The species is known not to engage with humans. It doesn’t bite as it prefers to use other methods to keep people and animals away.
It raises and flattens its head like a cobra. Eastern Hognose Snakes also use hissing to appear more dangerous than they truly are.
This upturned snout species also fake bites. It head-butts humans and animals but it doesn’t bite.
Other methods of keeping humans at a safe distance include playing dead.
It can roll over motionless with its tongue out of its mouth to appear dead and to make animals move along.
On occasion, the snake also releases a foul smell to deter animals and predators further.
11. Ribbon Snake
Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis saurita) are a species marked by their habitat in looks and their prey in behavior.
This snake has dull gray or green coloring with a striped body so that it blends in with vegetation around the water sources it lives around.
A snake only found around water, Ribbon Snakes are interested in prey such as fish, spiders, and bugs. They don’t eat warm-blooded prey.
The behavior of these snakes doesn’t count them among the aggressive species of Maryland as they prefer to flee or swim away when spotting humans.
The snake might also attempt to remain motionless hiding in vegetation and relying on its camouflaging colors.
Light brown, dark brown, and gray colors are all seen in the different morphs of this species.
Even a black color with contrasting white or yellow dorsal stripes are noted for the species.
Queensnakes (Regina septemvittata) are always among the first aquatic species to respond to water pollution and a change in water quality.
They eat crayfish, preferably newly-molted crayfish which is only found in pure clean water.
Queesnakes are some of the most common dark olive-green snakes in Maryland as well.
Olive-green stripes are also spotted on the yellow ventral side of the species.
However, these are only visible in the first part of their lives as they become yellow as the snake gets older.
The large snake can look dangerous, but it doesn’t bite and it prefers to flee whenever seeing humans or animals around water in its area.
Queensnakes don’t stay still whenever cornered. They prefer to spin continuously until humans move away.
This snake can also release foul smells during these spins or solely rely on these foul smell releases when not spinning at the same time.
Juvenile Queesnakes aren’t as good in self-defense as adults. The reduced size of juveniles also exposes them to other predators.
Many juvenile Queesnakes only measure 6-7 inches being exposed to other snakes as prey.
13. Smooth Earthsnake
Smooth Earthsnakes (Virginia valeriae) are one of the multiple fossorial species of Maryland.
Much of their lives are spent underground which means these snakes are also brown or gray without any patterns.
The small snakes feed on earthworms and some of the smallest spiders they find under dead leaves on the ground.
While small, these snakes still have teeth and they might attempt to bite when handled. Bites aren’t painful as they have small teeth.
As multiple small species around Maryland, Smooth Earthsnakes have other defense mechanisms such as defecation.
They use this method to keep many predators away.
Small snakes of this genus are seen as harmless by most people finding them in gardens or around parks.
You can move the snake to a safe location when found in your garden as the species is generally docile and harmless even if it bites.
Some of the areas of the garden most likely to be a habitat for the species include substrate and other loose soil or aerated soil in the garden.
14. Eastern Kingsnake
Smooth scales are specific to the Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula).
This is one of the black snakes native to North America which is also present in high numbers across Maryland.
Chaparral and woodlands are some of the most common habitats of the species although it can be found in almost all areas venomous snakes are found in as well.
Eastern Kingsnakes are some of the most common non-venomous snake predators of venomous snakes.
Rattlesnakes in Maryland might be among the prey of this species as there aren’t as many venomous snakes in the state as elsewhere.
This snake might not bite humans when handled as it’s rather docile.
Eastern Kingsnakes are also among the species most commonly kept in captivity as pet snakes as a result.
However, its colored subspecies might be a more common pet snake than the plain plan and white morph of the snake.
Eastern Kingsnakes are also some of the longest-living species in the snake.
Males and females of the species can live up to 25 years.
15. Red-bellied Snake
A light brown color is specific to this fossorial species as juveniles. Adult Red-bellied Snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) darken but show the same vivid red ventral coloring which inspires their name.
Red-bellied Snakes are among the species also known for their secretive lifestyles.
Juveniles measuring up to 4 inches sometimes surface after it rains but adults aren’t easily spotted.
Easy prey due to its small size, the snake prefers to hide underground.
Even adult Red-bellied Snakes measure a maximum of 10 inches.
As with other small snakes, various defensive behaviors are exhibited by this species.
Red-bellied Snakes curl their lips whenever threatened. This is believed to be a death-faking act aimed to protect themselves from predators.
Female Red-bellied Snakes are known to carry live young. They give birth to a small number of live snakes instead of laying eggs.
16. Gray Ratsnake
This snake (Pantherophis spiloides) comes in different colors and it even changes colors as it matures.
It may appear gray and brown as a juvenile to turn mostly black as an adult.
A constrictor species, Gray Ratsnakes are known to suffocate small prey as these snakes don’t swallow rodents and frogs directly as other species.
Gray Ratsnakes may not be as keen on biting but biting is reported.
This species can bite without warning, especially if roughly handled but it prefers not to engage with humans in most cases.
Gray Ratsnakes are further seen relying on other defensive mechanisms when spotting humans.
Releasing a foul smell is one of the first reactions this snake has when surprised by humans.
The mating season is the time when Gray Ratsnakes might be seen together.
It takes a long time for the female Gray Ratsnake to reach sexual maturity, mate, and lay eggs.
It can take up to 9 years for the female of the species to be ready to mate for the first time.
17. Smooth Greensnake
Smooth Greensankes (Opheodrys vernalis) have smooth green scales and a short length.
A maximum length of 21 inches is recorded for this species. Its habitat is diverse.
The snake lives in woodlands, next to woodlands, and on meadows. Many snakes of the species are found in these habitats but close to streams or ponds.
Clearings in woodlands and on meadows are ideal for Smooth Greensnakes as the species needs sunlight and warmth.
It prefers to live in areas around water as the vegetation here is lively and green.
This helps the species maintain its camouflage and it helps it move away from predators by hiding in the vegetation.
This snake feeds on caterpillars, bugs, and insects.
Smooth Greensanke bites are common. However, they are rarely dangerous or painful.
18. Corn Snake
Corn Snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are a docile species that don’t typically bite even when handled.
Color variation is large among snakes of this species. Red, brown, orange, gray, and even black colors are specific to this beneficial snake.
Maryland is one of the few states in the area where this species is found as most Corn Snakes only live in the Southeastern areas of the United States.
It can be found in grain storage facilities next to crops as this species likes to feed on rodents that eat grains.
Mice and amphibians are some of the common species Corn Snakes eat.
This species might be difficult to spot due to its reduced numbers in the state and its nocturnal nature.
Corn Snakes are dependent on heat from the sun or from their habitat to survive as well as for digestion.
This is why these snakes are mainly moving on soil that is still warm at night.
Corn Snakes are introduced in many parts of the country as a means to control rodents.
The snake is also believed to have once been venomous and evolved to its current non-venomous status.
19. Plain-bellied Watersnake
This species (Nerodia erythrogaster) has multiple colors but an olive-green morph is its most common color.
As its name implies, the Plain-bellied Watersnake is an aquatic species. It spends much of its time looking for food around water.
This snake is also one of the most common prey snakes for other snakes.
Kingsnakes are among the most common species known to eat the Plain-bellied Watersnake.
Its common defensive measures include biting, even if the snake is non-venomous. It can also bite humans but it prefers to flee into water when spotting people.
This snake can attempt to bite other snakes that want to eat it as well.
Releasing a foul smell is another method used by the Plain-bellied Watersnake to keep predators away.
You may see this snake around ponds and streams at the end of the summer. This marks the period gravid females give birth to live young.
20. Mole Kingsnake
Mole Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis rhombomaculata) are some of the rarest types of fossorial snakes in Maryland.
This species spends its days underground but it may come out at night looking for food.
A common problem with road killings, this snake ends up dead as it tries to cross busy roads at night across the state.
Known for its dark color, this snake is believed to like the warmth of paved roads on which it rests while looking for prey at night.
Unlike other fossorial species, Mole Kingsnakes like to eat rodents.
These snakes swallow rodents alive.
Mole Kingsnakes like to live next to woodlands and are generally mistaken for other species given their large size.
Unlike other fossorial species, Mole Kingsnakes are very large. They grow up to a size of 40 inches, making them the largest fossorial species in Maryland.
Red blotches with black borders make this species (Cemophora coccinea) stand out. While a rare sight across the state, Scarletsnakes are still present in Maryland in small populations.
This is a species that can bite. Its bite isn’t dangerous or highly painful as Scarletsnakes are non-venomous.
Birds and mammals are some of the common predators of the snake.
Humans are also responsible for diminishing populations of the species as road killings are frequent.
The colorful nature of the snake has also been linked to its diminishing numbers as these snakes are captured for illegal snake pet trading.
22. Rainbow Snake
Rainbow Snakes (Farancia erytrogramma) are a rare colorful species sometimes found in Maryland.
This species is named after the colors of the rainbow.
Adult, red, and black colors are specific to this snake.
Rainbow snakes can inhabit different areas of the state as they can swim. Eels are the main prey for this large snake.
Known for having a robust body, Rainbow Snakes can grow to a size of over 40 inches.
Females are known to lay eggs in clusters. Up to 20 eggs are laid by the gravid female in the summer.
While a large species, Rainbow Snakes don’t bite.
23. Eastern Pinesnake
Also known as the Northern Pinesnake, this species (Pituophis melanoleucus) is non-venomous.
The ground color is specific to this snake which is one of the common predators of rodents.
Moles are among its prey preferences. Eastern Pinesnakes can also eat the eggs of various species.
These snakes prefer to flee when spotting humans. They can bite when threatened.
Multiple bites have also been reported whenever this snake is stepped on or roughly handled.