Meet South Carolina’s venomous snakes

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – July 16 is World Snake Day and as you spend more time outdoors, it’s important to recognize Carolina’s venomous snakes.

If you see a snake crossing a trail or road, experts want you to give the reptiles plenty of room to move away from you.

According to SCDNR, South Carolina is home to 36 species of snakes. Six of the species are venomous.

Venomous species tend to be “secretive and are less frequently encountered,” but if you do encounter a snake, here is what to look for:


The Copperhead is the state’s most common venomous snake. The snakes have dark brown, hourglass-shaped crossbands over a pink to coppery-tan background color. They are found all across the state in a range of habitats including mountains and piedmont and coastal hardwood floors.

Pigmy Rattlesnake

The Pigmy Rattlesnake is the smallest of all rattlesnake species. Adults grow to just over one foot in length. Their colors vary from dark, charcoal gray to light gray and pink with dark spots along their back and a faint red strip down their side.

Pigmy rattlesnakes are found across the state, until the mountain region of the Upstate.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is the state’s largest venomous snake. They live in pine flatwoods, rolling pine hills, and maritime grasslands of the Lowcountry. The species is characterized by its dark-brown to black “diamonds” running down its back.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are ambush predators meaning they hide and wait for prey to come to them.

Timber Rattlesnake

This snake is found throughout South Carolina. The species has two different “forms” according to SCDNR – the mountain form, referred to as the Timber Rattlesnake, and the piedmont-coastal form, referred to as the Canebrake Rattlesnake.

The Timber Rattlesnake, the mountain form is seen on south-facing rock outcrops in the winter and along streams in the warmer months.

The Canebrake Rattlesnake is found in forested woodlands and wooded bluffs near rivers and swamps.

Both forms of the snake are tan in color with dark brown cross-bands. The canebrake form typically has a red-brown stripe running down its back


Commonly known as the Water Moccasin, the Cottonmouth resides in wetlands and swamps. The species varies in colors from dark brown and black to olive and a yellow-like tan. Young Cottonmouth resembles Copperhead snakes.

SCDNR cautions that, unlike other snakes that attempt to escape human sight, the Cottonmouth will stand their ground. In doing so, it is not uncommon to see the snake coil up and open its mouth to display its white ‘ cotton’ lined mouth.

Coral Snake

The Coral Snake is recognized for its bright red, yellow, and black bands. The SCDNR warns that two non-venomous snakes are similar in coloring – the Scarlet Kingsnake and the Scarlet Snake. However, the head of the Coral Snake is always black.

SCDNR says that the Coral Snake is ‘secretive.’ They often spend time underground or under the loose sandy soil. This snake is found along the state’s coast and through the Midlands.

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