Kentucky Garden Snakes: Identifying the Most Common Snakes in Your Garden

Known for the Kentucky Derby, Mammoth Cave National Park, and bluegrass music, the state is home to a vast array of wildlife and an amazing variety of snakes. With over 30 species calling Bluegrass State home, we’ve tracked down the species you’re most likely to encounter while working in your garden.

Of course, most species become more common the further away you get from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Venomous snakes identified in Kentucky

Determining whether a snake is venomous is not always easy, but it is always important. However, Kentucky has only four species of venomous snakes, and they are all from the same group of snakes in America. Crotarine Subfamily: Viper.

These snakes are known for having large loreal pits on either side of their faces, between their nostrils and eyes. Most of them have a relatively large spade-shaped head set on the neck that seems too thin for the head. Copperheads have refined their prey-catching techniques based on science. Their heads hide long, sharp fangs that lead to poison glands behind their eyes. Fangs are the largest of the venomous snakes, as they have hinges that allow the snake to fold the fangs onto its head.

Copperheads have thick bodies for their length, and most have keel-like scales. The scales of the keel have ridges that effectively divide the scales in half lengthwise, giving the snake’s skin a rough appearance.

Kentucky’s Most Common Venomous Snake: Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon Contortrix)

Eastern copperheads are poisonous.

© Jeff W. Jarrett/

Kentucky has only four venomous snakes. The Eastern Copperhead is a very beautiful snake. They have copper-colored heads and a tan to gray base color. The maroon markings are roughly hourglass-shaped, and when viewed from a short distance, the copperhead looks like a chocolate kiss.

Copperheads have the same chunky bodies and large heads that you’d expect from a pit viper, but grow only about two to three feet long. There are scales above the eyes. They are most active in the spring and fall, when they enter and exit Brunation’s burrows. After mating in the spring, these snakes give birth to 7-8 fully functional babies in the fall.

copperhead behavior

This species prefers rocky or wooded hillsides, areas near streams, timber heaps, rotten logs and rubble heaps. Copperheads eat a wide variety of prey, and young ones love cicadas. They are excellent climbers and will go where they find their prey. They can be anywhere from remote forests to under bushes in your garden where small rodents, lizards or frogs may hide.

These snakes move quickly only when attacking. Copperheads will move faster if they’re moving to avoid something, but they generally creep without moving too fast.

Their cryptic patterns allow these snakes to hide among fallen leaves. As a result, they are difficult to find. As ambush predators, copperheads are likely to rely on camouflage and hope not to be seen. If you give it time to escape, Copperhead will prefer to flee rather than fight.

Other Venomous Snakes of Kentucky

The following snakes are less common in Kentucky. But their poison is more dangerous.

  • cotton mouse (Agkistrodon pysivoras): Only found in the western third of Kentucky. Its appearance changes from dark brown to black in adulthood. Juvenile patterns are similar to those of copperheads, but the edges are more pixelated and lack the smooth color gradation seen in copperheads.
  • timber rattlesnake (terrifying rattlesnake): Statewide, but primarily confined to the Kentucky woodlands. The base color is brown, yellow, green, or gray, and most of Kentucky has a V-shaped or M-shaped dark crossband.
  • pygmy rattlesnake (Milestone Sister): Rare in Kentucky, only in the Mid-South region. It is greyish-brown to black with oval spots along the back and sides. Some have reddish spines. They are often confused with juveniles of larger species due to their size and small rattles.

Kentucky’s Most Common Nonvenomous Snake: Greyrat Snake (Pantherophis spiroides)

Gray rat snakes are non-toxic.

© Jay Ondreika/

These long colbrids are Kentucky’s longest snakes. They commonly reach lengths of 5 to 6 feet, but have been recorded to be over 8 feet. Gray rat snakes are slender, but not delicate. This species is strong and will shrink its prey before swallowing it whole. These snakes have blunt snouts, rounded pupils, and stripes on their snouts to connect their eyes.

unlike the east (P. alleganiensis) and western rat snakes (P. Obsolete), the Kentucky Gray Rat Snake maintains juvenile patterns. It may darken a bit as it ages, but you can still see the pattern. Gray rat snakes have a lighter base color, usually a shade of gray, with square to rectangular blotches on their backs. One of the characteristics of these rat snakes is that they have a series of stripes on the back of their neck and head that combine to form an inverted arrowhead.

Gray Rat Snake Behavior

A rat snake can stay at home almost anywhere it finds prey. These snakes are good at getting into strange predicaments. The Gray Rat Snake is most likely to be encountered in Kentucky and is the most commonly reported species in Kentucky.

They live everywhere from forests and meadows to your garden. These snakes are skilled climbers and are often seen climbing trees, bushes, and brick walls. Mouse snakes of all kinds have surprised many people just by being in unexpected places.

No matter how much trouble they get into, they are harmless. They have neither fangs nor poison. Greyrat Snakes may bite when cornered, but can usually move quickly by slamming their tails into something, trying to escape with all their might.

common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter snake crawling on rocks
Garter snakes usually don’t like being handled.


Members of this very common species and its subspecies are present in most of North America. They are very hardy and often emerge first in spring and last in fall.

Common garter snakes are generally slender, but can be on the stocky side. Some reach 4 feet in length, but most are smaller. They have small heads and large eyes with round pupils. The most common garter snake is a shade of brown with dark spots and he has three stripes. He has one back and stripes on each side of his body that extends from his neck to his tail. The stripe color varies, but is often yellow or orange.

garter snake behavior

Garter snakes are one of the few snakes that are (slightly) venomous and venomous. They do not have poisonous glands, but their saliva is poisonous and affects amphibians they like to eat. They are immune to toad toxins and can absorb them in a way that makes garter snakes toxic to most animals.

These snakes quickly release musk, a foul-smelling substance from their cloaca, so catching one is likely to be musk. They usually don’t like being treated. Garter snakes usually do not attempt to attack, but may if they have just eaten.

It has poisonous saliva, but is not dangerous to humans. If you are bitten by a garter snake, the worst case scenario is that the bite site is slightly swollen and itchy. is not.

This species is diurnal and active most of the day. Their habitats vary and include forests, fields, streams, marshes, and ponds. Garter snakes are often found near water, as this is where most of their prey resides. They prefer amphibians, but also eat worms, crayfish, small fish, leeches, slugs and snails.

common water snake or northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Northern Water Snake (nerodia sipedon)
Common water snakes are often mistaken for cottonmouths.

© Steve Byland/

The Northern Water Snake is the most common water snake in Kentucky. Like most snakes, it has a few common names — common water snakes are also called northern water snakes, black water adders, brown water snakes, and striped water snakes.

These harmless, harmless snakes are often mistaken for cottonmouths and killed. However, cottonmouths live only in the western half of Kentucky, but are widespread throughout the state.

Common water snakes are heavy, with keel-like scales, and are usually 2 to 4 feet long. They are reddish-brown, black, gray, or brown with a dark cross band on the back. The head of these snakes is about as wide as the neck, but can be flattened to make the head appear larger to predators. Has – No venomous snakes in the United States have this marking.

One way to tell a cottonmouth from a water snake is by looking at the top of its head. Colbrids, like the common water snake, have large flat scales, while cottonmouths and copperheads have smaller scales.

Common Behavior of Water Snakes

These snakes spend most of their time in or near water. They feed on fish and amphibians and have very sharp teeth to catch their prey as it is slippery and slimy. They are non-toxic and harmless to you, but common water snakes can inflict painful bites because of their teeth!

When cornered, these snakes writhe and attack everything within reach. Common water snakes often leave multiple bites when people try to capture them. I will withdraw.

Other Nonvenomous Snakes in Kentucky

Kentucky is home to more than 20 species of snakes, most of which are harmless. Here are some you might find in your garden.

Report a Snake Sighting in Kentucky

Kentucky likes to track snake sightings because it helps determine if species populations are stable or changing. The Kentucky Forestry Department lists all snake species found in the state, and you can also report sightings. It’s very easy to use. Scroll down the page to Saw Snakes, click or tap to open the Snakes page,[目撃情報を報告]just select .

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