How to Identify Arkansas Snakes

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Arkansas' nickname, the Natural State, certainly proves true when to comes to snake abundance. Thirty-six species are found in Arkansas, in various habitats, whether wet, dry or wooded. Although some Arkansas species are venomous, don't panic -- according to Arkansas State University, no one has died from a wild snakebite in the state since the 1960s.

Venomous Snakes

Six venomous snake species live in Arkansas, five of which are pit vipers. That means they have a pit between the eye and nose, permitting them to visualize infrared wavelengths and locate prey. Arkansas pit vipers include the aggressive cottonmouth and the easily camouflaged copperhead, along with three rattlesnake species -- the small pygmy rattlesnake, the western diamondback rattlesnake and the timber rattlesnake. Most venomous snakes have vertical pupils, like felines, rather than round pupils. The coral snake is the venomous non-pit viper in Arkansas, a brown snake with black and yellow bands.

Water Snakes

Common water snakes in Arkansas include the medium-size, olive-colored Mississippi green water snake; the plainbelly water snake, gray with a lighter-colored belly; the small broad-banded water snake, easily identified by its brown or reddish crossbands separated with blotches of yellow; the diamondback water snake, not to be confused with the rattler; the northern water snake, often mistaken for the copperhead because of its similar gray body with brown or red bands and blotches; and the large, black racer.

Land Snakes

The mid-sized, grayish Great Plains rat snake is relatively rare in Arkansas, but can be found in mountainous, forest edges. The more common black rat snake is larger and shinier. The thick, solid-colored or blotchy Eastern hognose snake gets its name from its turned-up snout. The medium-size brown or tan prairie king snake usually has an arrow mark on the top of the head. The speckled king snake is darker, with yellow or white spots. The front part of large, thin coachwhip is black, while the area near the tail is often reddish. Solid black coachwhips also exist. The small rough green snake has a light belly. The strikingly patterned western ribbon snake is dark with a yellow stripe down the back and lighter stripes on the side. The small, common garter snake is perhaps the snake most often encountered by humans, as it often lives in backyards.

Mud Snakes

The mud snake boasts a large black body and a red belly. The smaller brown Graham's crayfish snake has cream stripes with a light belly. The even tinier, brownish glossy crayfish snake has a tan stripe along its side and black spots on a light belly. The slate queen snake also has cream stripes, along with a light belly with darker stripes.

Wood Snakes

Many forest-dwelling species are smaller than those living in other habitats. The worm snake can be mistaken for a large worm rather than a tiny snake. The small, dark ringneck snake is named for the yellow ring around its neck. The rare ground snake has officially been spotted only twice in the state. The small brown snake has darker spots on the body. The redbelly snake's body is brown or gray, but its belly might be pink or yellow instead of red. The little flathead snake is brown with a pinkish belly. Another small snake, the roughhead, is brown with a light belly, similar in appearance to the smooth earth snake.

Mis-Snaken Identity

The orange, black and cream coral milk snake is often mistaken for the venomous coral snake. The similar-looking but smaller scarlet snake also resembles the venomous version, but both of these snakes are harmless.

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Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.