How To Identify North Carolina Snakes

Charlotte, North Carolina has its share of lush landscapes and beautiful views, but is that all it has? The vegetation found throughout Charlotte hosts a variety of pests, more specifically snakes. While most snakes you may come across in the Queen City won’t cause you any harm, there are a few that may be venomous. Snakes can be found in many areas, including most outdoor areas and even your home. It is important to be able to  identify certain species of snakes living in the Charlotte area.

Understanding how to identify a venomous snake will help you and your family stay safe should you cross paths with one. In the state of North Carolina you can find about 37 different species of snake. Out of those 37, six are venomous and three are found in and around the Charlotte area. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths are the three most common venomous snakes found in Charlotte, North Carolina. Identifying a venomous snake can be rather difficult as nonvenomous snakes may appear similar as a means of defense. It is extremely important to educate yourself on details of venomous snakes in order to keep yourself out of harm’s way. 


Rattlesnakes can be found in the wooded areas around Charlotte measuring approximately four feet in length.This species of snake preys on birds and small rodents and begin hibernation as temperatures drop, around October. Oftentimes they hibernate in large groups and emerge in the springtime. Rattlesnakes are known for their rattle, but tend to remain hidden by their camouflage. A bite from a rattlesnake can be fatal and should be attended to immediately. 

How to identify a rattlesnake:


  • Vibrating (rattling) tails
  • Narrow neck with wide head
  • Chevron-like pattern across the back
  • Black tail
  • Yellow eyes with elliptical eyes
  • Four feet in length
  • Heavy body



The most common species of venomous snake found in North Carolina. Copperheads prefer to live in wooded areas, rocky slopes, or the suburbs. Their camouflage makes them hard to spot in their habitat and will oftentimes strike to a hand or foot. Most venomous snakes give a warning sign prior to attacking but copperheads do not. Copperhead bites have accounted for more than 90% of all snake bites, and while they aren’t fatal, they can cause tissue damage around the bite site. Like most other species of snake, copperheads hibernate during the winter and emerge during the spring. Although they are mainly nocturnal, when the weather is warm they can be spotted during the day.

How to identify a copperhead:

  • Dark line between the eye
  • Triangular shaped head
  • Copper, brown, or tan in color
    • Brown is wide on the sides and narrow along the back
  • Vertical pupils
  • Yellowish belly
  • May release a musky scent when bothered


Cottonmouths are also known as water moccasins. These snakes make their home near bodies of water and can even swim. While these snakes are venomous, their bites are not fatal.


How to identify a cottonmouth in North Carolina:

  • White mouth
  • Dark brown in color
  • Black faded bands
  • Three to four feet in length

Charlotte isn’t just home to venomous snakes, there are also nonvenomous snakes that share a North Carolina Residence. 


Black racers are very common in North Carolina. Their bodies are solid black with large eyes. They are only active during the nighttime and prey on lizards, frogs and insects.


Rat snakes are black, but can have dark stripes with a black and white checkered underbelly. These snakes are five to eight feet in length with a square body shape.


Brown snakes have a light brown appearance with a pale stripe down their back. Only about 10 inches in length they feed on worms, snails, and slugs.


Corn snakes have a similar appearance to the copperhead but are much more vibrant in color. These snakes will have a checkerboard pattern on their bellies. Their name comes from the prey they eat which feeds mainly on corn and other grain.


Eastern king snakes have a chain link pattern along their bodies. These snakes will feed on small mammals and frogs as well as venomous snakes.


Water snakes have cross banded patterns along their bodies which are commonly mistaken for venomous markings. These snakes come in red, brown, black and grey, measuring up to five feet.