Eastern / Common Gartersnake:
(Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
Gartersnakes are found throughout the state at all elevations, living in habitats that vary from wet to dry. They leave their dens between March and April to mate and are often seen in a “breeding ball” around this time. Babies are born, often ten to forty at a time, between July and October. Typically, gartersnakes have three light stripes most often yellow but are sometimes blue, green or brown. The middle strip is narrow with a wider strip on either side. There are often alternating black spots between the rows. Their bellies are yellow or pale green. Gartersnakes can grow in length up to 42 inches, but are more frequently 18-26 inches. Non-mature garter snakes look similar to adults. Gartersnakes are often confused with the ribbonsnake, however ribbonsnakes are much less common. In comparison, gartersnakes tend to be thicker and less agile. Gartersnakes are not venomous and pose no threat to people. These snakes are not aggressive and will avoid contact with people when possible.
Eastern Hognose Snake
The eastern hognose snake is one of the less common snakes in Connecticut and is listed as a state species of special concern due to their decreasing numbers. Hog-nosed snakes can be found throughout the state, but are more common at moderate elevations and inland. They prefer living in areas with loose gravel or sandy soil, along the edge of forested areas rather than within the woods. Hog-nosed snakes’ keeled (ridged) dorsal scales come in a variety of colors, some with bright reds, browns, oranges and yellows, while others are darker black or gray. Their bellies are most often spotted gray with a lighter tail. Adolescents are similar in appearance as adults, but are more muted in color with dark gray and brown patches. As the name implies, hog-nosed snakes have pig-like snout that is upturned. This feature is used for digging up its staple food, toads. The eastern hognose snake is not venomous and is not a threat to humans. However, if threatened by predators the hognose will attempt to look like a cobra by flattening its neck to form a hood, hissing and striking aggressively, though often short and with its mouth closed. These imitations often incorrectly lead people to believe these snakes are venomous. If these imitations fail the snake will emit a rancid odor and play dead.
(Lampropeltis Triangulum Triangulum)
The eastern milkshake is one of the most populous snakes throughout Connecticut with the exception of New London county. Their habitats are varied but require cover for safety and a hearty rodent population. They are often in areas near homes or barns and are frequently confused with copperheads. Milksnakes have a “Y” or “V” marking on their head compared to a solid copper-colored head, and have smooth scales vs the keeled(ridged) scales of the copperhead. Milksnakes spend the winter in underground dens. In June the adults breed and will lay up to 24 eggs by July. The young snakes will leave the nest between August and October. Juvenile snakes are initially bright but become more subdued with age. Milksnakes are non-venomous and are not a threat to people. If threatened, milkshakes will lay frozen in place or try to leave. If trapped the snake may quickly shake the tip of its tail and strike, with a last resort of biting. Its teeth, however, are small and are just barely able to break skin.
The eastern rat snake is the biggest snake in Connecticut. It is disconnectedly distributed throughout the state, but is most prevalent in coastal and southeastern hill regions of the state. The eastern ratsnake thrives in settings with mixed farmland, woods and homes because of the higher populations of birds and rodents there. The eastern ratsnake enters its den, often communal, for winter in mid November and returns in April. Ratsnakes will mate after emerging from the den through May. Females will lay, then abandon a clutch of up to 12 eggs that will hatch in late summer. Ratsnakes are thick bodied and are black with small white specks and white chin. They can be differentiated from the black racer by their minimally keeled scales and the checkered belly. The milkshake also has a defined iris compared to the dark eyes of the black racer. Eastern ratsnakes are not venomous and are not dangerous to people. Given the chance they will freeze, trying to blend into their surroundings. If scared they may shake their tail in effort to deter a predator.
The ribbon snake is the smaller and less common cousin of the gartersnake. Because of their decreasing numbers, often attributed to the loss of its wetland home, the ribbon snake is listed as a species of special concern in Connecticut. Despite this, ribbonsnakes can be found throughout the state with the largest populations in Central Connecticut Lowland. The ribbonsnake prefers areas of shallow water with grassy areas surrounding. They spend winter in underground dens, entering around October and emerging in April. Mating occurs soon after leaving their dens, but can occur in the fall. Females birth ten to twelve live babies between July and August, which must immediately fend for themselves. The common ribbonsnake is not venomous and poses no threat to humans. If threatened it will flatten its head, flail around and release an unpleasant odor in an attempt to avert threats
(Carphophis amoenus amoenus)
Named for an appearance comparable to an earthworm, the eastern wormsnake can be found throughout Connecticut, minus the most northwestern corner. They are more common in lower elevations, but are not often seen due to the amount of time spent underground. For this reason less is known about the life and prevalence of these snakes. Eastern wormsnakes are active in May through September and mate in spring and fall. Females store sperm throughout winter until eggs, up to eight, are laid in June or July. Babies hatch in August through mid September. The eastern wormsnake is not aggressive and is non-venomous. Given the chance a wormsnake with go away from humans. If picked up, the wormsnake may use its pointy tail to push against hands and release a pungent odor in an effort to protect itself.
Northern Black Racer
(Coluber constrictor constrictor)
The northern black racer can be found throughout Connecticut. They prefer to live in transitional areas between wooded regions and fields. Here, they hunt during the day for a variety of prey including smaller snakes, rodents and frogs. In winter black racers will brumate, lay awake but dormant, in dens from October through March, when they mate. During mating season black racers become more aggressive in defending their territory. By June or July the females will lay a clutch of up to 32 eggs which will hatch by August or September. Juvenile black racers look quite different than adults, with dark patches on a light gray body. Adults can be differentiated from the eastern ratsnake by the lack of keeled scales and checkered belly pattern and less distinct iris. The northern black racer is non-venomous and beneficial to people in helping to control rodent populations. If scared they may release a pungent odor, strike or bite but will not intentionally attack people without provocation.
(Storeria dekayi dekayi)
The northern brownsnake, formerly known as Dekay’s brown snake, can be found throughout Connecticut. It lives in a variety of settings from wetlands to forest, but is most often seen in residential areas. The brownsnake may be active day or night hunting its next meal. Brownsnakes eat worms, fish, insects and the occasional amphibian. The northern brownsnake retreats to its communal den in November and emerges in March for mating. Mating occurs through May and babies are born 105-113 days later. In July females will start to give birth to up to 31 live babies. While they initially, briefly stay close to the mother, she does not care for them and they must survive on their own. Northern Brownsnakes are shy and prefer to hide out of sight, they are not venomous and are not a threat to people, they do not bite. As a last resort the brownsnake will release a foul odor if provoked.
Northern Redbelly Snake
(Storeria Occipitomaculata occipitomaculata)
The northern redbelly snake is found in the upland regions of Connecticut, however because of its shy nature it is not often seen. It prefers to live in damp areas, such as swampy forest, areas bordering bogs or wet meadows. It likes to spend the day hiding underneath things, logs, rocks or leaves, and coming out at night to hunt. Its foods of choice include worms, insects and insect larvae. Northern redbelly snakes are most active from May to October, spending their winters in burrows discarded by rodents or anthills. Mating occurs in the spring and summer. Live babies are born, typically seven to eight at a time between July and September. Though sometimes confused with ring-necked, wormsnakes or brownsnakes, none, including the redbelly are a threat to people and are not venomous. If threatened that redbelly will not bite but may show its teeth by curling its lip or releasing a foul odor.
Northern Ringneck Snake
(Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
Then northern ringneck is found throughout Connecticut at all elevations. They live in diverse habitats that range from gravel pits to gardens and forest to fields. The ringneck is predominantly nocturnal, spending its days hiding under objects. It is when these objects are disturbed that the ringneck is most typically seen. At night the ringneck hunts prey including redbelly snakes, worms and salamanders. Active May through October, females lay on average three to four eggs in June to July. Often the eggs are laid in a communal nest in a sunny area. Northern ringnecks are non-venomous and are not a threat to humans. If disturbed, given the chance the snake will move away from people. If threatened, its defense is limited to wild wriggling in an attempt to escape and emitting a foul odor.
The northern watersnake can be found throughout Connecticut in most freshwater areas that provide adequate food and cover. They hunt for their primary food, fish, day or night as long as the water temperature is warm enough. Watersnakes typically swim with just their heads above water, but have the ability to dive for food below the surface. Northern Watersnakes spend the winter brumating in old burrows, tunnels or dams. After mating between April and May, they will give birth to , on average, 20 live young in August to October. The young snakes’ markings are brighter than the adults. Adult watersnakes are often confused for water moccasins or copperheads. Water moccasins do not live in Connecticut and copperheads are rarely found in water compared to the watersnake that is always near water. The narrow head of the watersnake can help distinguish it from the triangular head of the copperhead. While the watersnake is non-venomous, they can sometimes cause trouble if living in a fish hatchery. In these cases the snake may need to be moved by a professional. If threatened the watersnake will release pungent odor and is even known to bite or chew on a predator in an effort to escape.
Smooth Green Snake
Due to decreasing habitat and insecticides use, the smooth green snake is listed as a species of special concern in Connecticut. The population is spotty across the state but they are more common in the east. They prefer rural, damp habitats like pastures or meadows, but can be found in developed areas. Smooth green snakes spend winter underground, emerging in May with breeding occurring in spring to summer. Depending on the weather, females may incubate their clutch of 3-13 eggs internally or externally. Juvenile green snakes will look similar but darker green. Interestingly, shortly after death their bright green coloration is lost and becomes bright blue. The smooth green snake poses no threat to people and are quite helpful in controlling insect populations. Mild tempered, they will avoid interaction with people if given the chance.
(Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
The northern copperhead can be found throughout the state with the largest population in the central Connecticut Lowlands, to the west of the Connecticut River. Mostly active at night, with camouflaged coloring, they are often able to go undetected by people. They use these same advantages for hunting prey, primarily rodents. Copperheads use a sharp sense of smell and their pits to detect prey that is warmer than the environment, a helpful tool for nocturnal hunts. Copperheads spend the colder months, typically starting in October, in communal dens. Emerging in April, mating occurs shortly after and females will give birth to up to ten live young. The babies must immediately take care of themselves. Copperheads have a hemolytic venom that causes the breakdown of blood cells. They inject venom through hollow fangs that fold up against their closed mouth. Despite this the copperhead is generally not aggressive and will remain hidden if given the chance. If threatened the copperhead may bite resulting in substantial pain and illness but rarely death in humans. Despite this, if bitten seek immediate medical care.
The timber rattlesnake is an endangered species in Connecticut, it is primarily found in the western and central parts of the state. They live in areas with rough, often steep ledges where water is accessible, typically above 500ft in elevation. They mainly eat small rodents and mammals as well as the occasional bird. Timber rattlesnakes, pit vipers, use their pit to detect warmth, allowing precise strikes of prey. Timber rattlesnakes are most active between April and October. The rest of the year is predominately spent in communal dens. Mating occurs in either spring or fall, with live births occurring in August or September. At birth the babies have fangs, venom and a small rattle. Rattlesnakes live up to 22 years but females reproduce only once every three to four years, contributing to a slow regeneration of the population. Timber rattlesnakes have a hemolytic venom that causes the breakdown of blood cells. It is delivered through hollow fangs that fold in their closed mouth. Venom is used as part of the eating and digesting process, not for defense. Because of this, defensive strikes often contain less or even no venom. Rattlesnakes will often rattle to warn that you are too close, give the snakes plenty of space to leave. If you are bitten seek immediate medical help.