Snakes of West Virginia

Identification and Natural History


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Family: Colubridae
Queen Snake
Common Watersnake
Northern Brownsnake
Northern Red-bellied Snake
Common Ribbonsnake
Eastern Gartersnake
Eastern Smooth Earthsnake
Mountain Earthsnake
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Northern Ring-necked Snake
Eastern Wormsnake
Northern Black Racer
Rough Greensnake
Smooth Greensnake
Black Ratsnake
Northern Pinesnake
Eastern Kingsnake
Black Kingsnake
Eastern Milksnake

Family: Viperidae
Northern Copperhead
Timber Rattlesnake


     There are 21 species of snakes in 2 families in West Virginia.  Most of these species are small and secretive, spending much of their time under rocks and logs.  All are carnivores, feeding on a wide variety of prey including small insects, earthworms, frogs, fish, rodents, birds, lizards, and other snakes. 

     Most of our snakes lay eggs in the soil or in leaf or sawdust piles.  These snakes are referred to as "oviparous."  Other snakes like rattlesnakes and copperheads have what appears to be live birth and are referred to as "ovoviviparous."  In either case, the young are born as miniature adults and require no parental care. 

     Two of our species are venomous - the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake.  These snakes are not particularly aggressive though.  Most bites occur when people attempt to handle these snakes.  They are important parts of Appalachian ecosystems and should be left alone. 

     Some of West Virginia's snakes appear to be very rare.  The corn snake has only been found in a few locations in the state.  Only 2 northern pine snakes have ever been seen in West Virginia; both killed on the same road on the same day in Monroe County in 1940.

Click on the names to the left to learn about each species.

Page was created by Jeff Humphries and is now maintained by the Herpetology Lab at Marshall University.

  Last update 2/03.
Questions or comments on the web page email Dr. Thomas K. Pauley at