Slam Dunk IDs
A snake that is almost impossible to mistake is the Rough Green Snake. Rough Green Snakes can be identified by color alone. They are the only snakes indigenious to South Carolina whose backs and sides are pea green in color. Their bellies are pale yellow or white. They have no patterning on their backs or bellies. They are very slender bodied and grow to a medium length. They are called "Rough" because their dorsal scales are keeled.
If one observes a "rattle" on the tail of a snake, it is one of the three rattlesnake species indigenous to South Carolina: Timber (a.k.a., canebrake), Eastern Diamondback, or Pigmy (2 subspecies). This slamdunk ID only applies if one can see the rattle, not just hear it. Many snake species, venomous and nonvenomous, rapidily vibrate their tales when aggitated. In dry leaves a vibrating tail will make a sound like a rattle. Another word of caution is needed because the converse of this rule is not true. If one does not see a rattle, this does not necessarily mean the snake is not a rattlesnake. Pigmy Rattlesnakes and neonates of the larger species often do not show rattles. A very close inspection may reveal a button at the end of the tail. Also, larger rattlesnakes may loose their rattles from various causes. On larger rattlesnakes the tail will appear very "stumpy" if the rattle is missing. However, non-rattlesnakes may also have "stumpy" tails if they have lost the end of their tails from injury.
A snake with red and yellow stripes (lines running the length of the body) against a very dark, almost black background color, the snake is almost certainly a Rainbow Snake. Their bellies are red with a row of dark spots on each side. Rainbows are stout bodied with smooth, shiny scales. Adults are medium to large sized.
A snake with a pointed, upturned nose is a Hognose Snake. No other indigenous snake has a nose like it. There are 2 species of hognose snakes, the Eastern and the Southern. The Eastern has a more sharply pointed nose, while the Southern has a more rounded, more upturned nose. Both species are stout bodied, with keeled scales. Both species will assume defensive postures in which the neck is spread, somewhat in the manner of a cobra. The Eastern is a medium sized snake and the Southern is small to medium sized. The coloration and pattern of the Eastern Hognose is highly variable, ranging from patternless black to gray or tan with spots (or blotches) of brown, yellow, or reddish. The Southern Hognose is typically gray or tan with dark spots and blotches.
Return to How to Identify Snakes PageAugust 11, 2000
© 2000. Edwin Eugene Ott