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Publication #WEC305

Quick Reference Guide: Native Snakes Easily Mistaken for Introduced Constrictors in Florida1

Steve A. Johnson and Monica E. McGarrity2

Three non-native species of large constrictor snakes are now breeding in Florida, and several others have been encountered but have not yet established wild populations. This fact sheet, best viewed as a pdf (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW35000.pdf), is a quick reference guide to identification of the native snakes you might easily mistake for introduced constrictors in Florida. Like the introduced constrictors, these similar native snakes are large, aquatic, or have blotched markings. It is important to learn to recognize these native snakes so that you don't report them via the EDDMapS Florida invasive species reporting portal online at http://www.IveGot1.org. Learn more about how to scan for, recognize, and report introduced constrictors by completing the Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation training course. Visit http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml to learn more and get REDDy!

Large Native Snakes

Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)

Status: rarely encountered

Size: up to 8 feet

Head: reddish marks on chin

Body: iridescent blue-black with no markings

Figure 1. 

Eastern Indigo Snake. Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, UF


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Eastern Diamond-back Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)

Status: venomous, occasionally encountered throughout Florida

Size: up to 6–8 feet

Head: blocky, dark eyestripe with cream borders, vertical pupil

Body: dark diamonds with cream borders

Figure 2. 

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, UF


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Aquatic Native Snakes

Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Figure 3. 

Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin. Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, UF


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Status: venomous, common throughout Florida

Size: usually 2–4 feet

Head: blocky, dark eyestripe, vertical pupil

Body: blotched bands, older individuals may be solid black

Brown Watersnake (Neroda taxispilota)

Status: common throughout Florida

Size: usually 2–4 feet

Head: top unmarked, yellow flecks on chin

Body: squarish dark blotches in a "checkerboard" pattern

Figure 4. 

Brown Watersnake. Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, UF


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Blotched Native Snakes

Cornsnake or Red Ratsnake (Pantherophis guttatus)

Status: common throughout Florida

Size: usually 2–3 feet

Head: reddish arrowhead

Body: reddish blotches with dark outlines, checkerboard pattern on belly

Figure 5. 

Cornsnake or Red Ratsnake. Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, UF


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Acknowledgments

This project was made possible in part by a grant from the South Florida National Parks Trust and the Ferris Greeney Family Foundation, and by the USDA-RREA. This document was originally created as additional reference material for the Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation training program, also known as REDDy. For more information, visit http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml.

Footnotes

1.

This document is WEC305, of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date December 2010. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Steve A. Johnson, associate professor and Extension specialist, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida/IFAS - Plant City Center, 1200 North Park Road, Plant City, FL 33563; Monica E. McGarrity, biological scientist, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida/IFAS - Plant City Center, 1200 North Park Road, Plant City, FL 33563


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.