Identification of Water Pennsylvania Snakes and it’s Types

Water Snakes of Pennsylvania are the few species of both poisonous and non-venomous snakes in Pennsylvania. In addition, there are water and land snakes and snakes that dwell in or near bodies of water. We are concentrating on Pennsylvanian water snakes in this post. Several species on this list are semi-aquatic, meaning they may live equally on land and in the water.  While they can all swim, some snakes are more drawn to water than others.

Pennsylvania’s terrain, which consists of mountains, valleys, and woods, is breathtaking and varied. It also has an extensive system of rivers and lakes, including the enormous Lake Erie. It follows that the abundance of aquatic and semi-aquatic species in the state, including snakes, is not shocking. Five of Pennsylvania’s twenty-one snake species may be found in or close to bodies of water. Now, let’s explore the water snakes found in Pennsylvania, learning about their appearance, their favored habitats, and whether they are poisonous.

To Put It Briefly

  • Respect a snake’s space if you come across one in the wild.
  • An integral part of the PA ecology is snakes.
  • Pit vipers make up all three of the state’s poisonous snake species.
  • The Northern Watersnake and Eastern Garter Snakes are the most prevalent snakes in Pennsylvania.
  • Most snake bites occur when someone tries to harm, disturb, or kill a snake in any other manner.
  • Pennsylvania has three species of endangered snakes: the Northern Rough Greensnake, the Eastern Massasauga, and the Kirtland’s Snake.

Basics of Snake Identification

Snakes of Pennsylvania

This information is limited to the identification of snakes in Pennsylvania. Habitat and geographic location may significantly impact how a snake looks. There are aberrant snakes (those that look different from a standard snake of that species) even within populations.

When you come across a snake, some of the most helpful things to keep in mind are:

Size: You may be sure that a snake is not an Eastern worm snake, for example, if it is enormous. While their markings may seem identical at first, the size differences between an Eastern milk snake and a copperhead help distinguish them.

Color: Unlike smooth green snakes, brilliant green snakes are distinct from timber rattlesnakes.

Location: Certain species are restricted to some areas of the state because they are endemic to those ecosystems.

Shape of pupil: The pupils of all poisonous species in Pennsylvania are elliptical, but those of innocuous species are circular. Since many snakes have similar patterns and colors, distinguishing between them may not be easy.

Accurately Recognizing Poisonous Animals

In Pennsylvania, three species are poisonous. A few need clarification for the several innocuous species around the state. Fortunately, numerous features set Pennsylvania’s most venomous snakes apart and are closely linked. Below, I will discuss how to tell a harmless snake from a deadly one and discuss each venomous species. Always err on the side of caution if you are unsure about the identity of a snake. 

There are 2,700 different species of snakes in the world. However, how do scientists classify all of these species? Pennsylvania: where does it fit in? There are two families of snakes: the Viperidae and the Colubrid families. Eighteen non-venomous species of the Colubrid family live in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, three poisonous species exist in the Viperidae family, although only one is harmful.

Pit vipers Are Pennsylvania’s Only Venomous Snakes

Snakes of Pennsylvania

The Viperidae family includes all three of Pennsylvania’s poisonous snake species. Several similarities between these deadly pit vipers and innocuous species in the state allow for their differentiation:

  • elliptical learners
  • Heat-detecting wells
  • large, triangular heads

All nonvenomous snakes in Pennsylvania have round pupils, but the pupils of these three species are elliptical, like the eyes of a cat. Additionally, they have sensory pits between their noses and eyes. These help them find prey by assisting them to perceive heat. Due to the placement of the venom glands on either side, the head of a pit viper has a distinct triangular form. Certain harmless snakes can enlarge their heads and necks when they sense danger, fooling humans and other predators.

Pennsylvania Has Six Different Types of Water Snakes

Snakes of Pennsylvania

This list includes the Kirtland’s Snake, Northern Copperhead, Northern Water Snake, Northern Rough Greensnake, Queensnake, and Ribbonsnake, six snakes found in Pennsylvania that are either aquatic or semi-aquatic.


Scientific name: Nerodia Sipedon

Dimensions: 24-55 in.

All around Pennsylvania, plenty of water habitats are home to Northern Water Snakes. Unfortunately for these guys, their color and patterning are similar to those of the deadly Copperhead. They are not dangerous. However, When threatened, they have a reputation for acting harshly. Their habitats include marshes, swamps, lakes, ponds, and other slowly flowing freshwater bodies across Pennsylvania. They consume crayfish, amphibians, and small fish as food.

Differentiating Features:

  • The length of adults ranges from 24 to 55 inches.
  • Pale grey to dark brown with streaks of reddish-brown to black coloration.
  • As they mature, large adults become nearly entirely black or dark brown.
  • The coloring of immature and wet animals is vibrant, and females tend to be bigger than males.


Scientific name: Call it Opheodrys

Dimensions: 22–32 in.

The Northern Rough Greensnake alternates its life between land and water, being more semi-aquatic than aquatic. They like damp areas such as marshes, soggy meadows, and the margins of lakes and streams. In Chester County, in the southeast of the state, Northern Rough Greensnakes are an endangered species in Pennsylvania.  These snakes are sometimes confused for Smooth Greensnakes, which prefer dry habitats.


Scientific name: Regina septemvittata 

Dimensions: 14–23 in.

Watery environments are where queen snakes spend almost all of their time. They often inhabit slow- to swift-moving streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds with a plentiful supply of crayfish, their primary food source. In the western and southeast regions of the state, there are two distinct populations of queensnakes. Because of their high susceptibility to water contamination, queensnakes prioritize clean water sources when choosing a habitat.

Differentiating Features:

  • Adults are about 12 and 18 inches long.
  • The back and sides have four rows of alternating, dark, circular scars: greyish brown, reddish brown, or dark brown.
  • Vibrant orange, pink, or red below.
  • Head primarily black or dark brown, lips, chin, and neck white, light cream, or yellow.


Scientific name: Thamnophis saurita 

Dimensions: 20–34 in.

Pennsylvania is home to the semi-aquatic Ribbon Snake. Pennsylvania has two distinct subspecies of ribbon snakes: the Eastern Ribbon Snake and the Northern Ribbon Snake. Ribbon snakes live in rocky or forested areas with a steady water supply. To swiftly flee, they often bask on branches or bushes near water sources and dive into the water when threatened.


Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen,

Dimensions: 24–36 inches.

In Pennsylvania, there are three types of poisonous snakes, including the Northern Copperhead. They live near water in marshes and along stream banks, even though semi-aquatic. The bottom two-thirds of Pennsylvania is home to a large population of Northern Copperheads. They may dwell near water or in rocky or hilly areas. Many call them “upland moccasins.

6. The Kirtland Snail SNAKE

Scientific name: Clonophis kirtlandii 

Dimensions: 14–18 in.

 Since Pennsylvania hasn’t seen a Kirtland’s Snake in 60 years, its presence has yet to be discovered.  The state west of the Allegheny Mountains has seen them before. In actuality, Kirtland’s snakes are semi-aquatic and semi-fossorial. Along streams, ponds, marshes, damp plains, and crayfish burrows are possible locations to find them. Being semi-fossorial, they do, however, also spend some time underground. Because of its rarity, the people at PA Herps, a resource for identifying reptiles in Pennsylvania, suggest Contacting them if you encounter one so they can document this uncommon and elusive species.


As this article has shown, although the majority of snakes in Pennsylvania are terrestrial or land-dwelling, several may also be found in the state’s waterways. This list of water snakes in Pennsylvania only includes one poisonous snake. Thus, the majority of water snakes you may come across are benign. If you encounter a deadly snake, always approach it carefully.


Pennsylvania has several kinds of water snakes, including venomous and non-venomous ones. The state is home to a vast network of rivers and lakes, including Lake Erie, and a diversity of topography, including mountains, valleys, and forests. Five of Pennsylvania’s twenty-one snake species live in or close to water. All three of the state’s deadly snake species are pit vipers, with the most common species being the Eastern Garter Snake and the Northern Watersnake. Most snake bites result from efforts to damage, agitate, or kill a snake. Additionally, three endangered species may be found in Pennsylvania: Kirtland’s Snake, Eastern Massasauga, and Northern Rough Greensnake.

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