The Hoosier State is one of the great draws of the Midwest. Home to Indy 500, the birthplace of American icons such as James Dean and Michael Jackson, dashed by the Great Lakes and the Great Plains alike – it’s got plenty going for it. But before you get carried away with all that, it’s probably best to read this guide to snakes in Indiana…
Yep, there’s something like forty different species of snakes in Indiana to know about. The good news is that only four of them are venomous and pose any real threat to humans, and most of those are pretty darn rare. That said, snakebites do occur here and encounters with serpents do happen, particularly in the remoter, wilder parts of the territory.
Here, we’ll focus in on 13 of the most intriguing snake species found in old Hoosier. Of course, we’ll deal with that quartet of venom-ready sliders to begin with. Then, we’ll move onto a few of the more unique and unusual types of snakes that make their home in this corner of the United States.
Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
We begin with the most dangerous snake in Indiana. The timber rattlesnake is commonly found across many of the eastern states of the USA and in other parts of North America. Thankfully, they’re not particularly common in the land of old Hoosier, where they’re actually officially listed as an endangered species.
Yep, the timber rattlesnake is largely confined to Brown County State Park, about an hour’s drive south of the state capital of Indianapolis. The rangers at Brown County State Park have counted 115 timber rattlesnakes living inside the reserve in all.
Even though it produces a highly toxic venom that is strong enough to kill a human, the timber rarely bites aggressors. Unlike other vipers, it’s not particularly angry and prefers to rattle for long periods to intimidate and scare off any potential attackers rather than go straight in and attack. In fact, there have been no recorded bites by timber rattlesnakes inside Brown County State Park in the last thirty years. Phew!
Western cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma)
The western cottonmouth is another of Indiana’s venomous yet relatively rare snakes. Cottonmouths are found throughout the eastern and southeastern USA, where they go by many different names. They are the only known viper that can live in water and are classed as semi-aquatic. As such, you’re likely to come across them in wet and damp environments, where there’s good access to lakes, ponds, streams, marshes, and swamps.
The cottonmouth viper gets its name from the color of the mucus lining inside its mouth, which it jams wide open whenever it feels threatened. Usually around a meter in length, they’re a mid-sized serpent and possess a venom that can prove fatal to humans, though deaths from their bites remain incredibly rare.
The venom is classified as cytotoxic, meaning that it can cause lasting damage to the victim’s cells. Bites need to be treated immediately if they do occur. Otherwise, it’s a one-way ticket to extreme blistering pain at the site of contact, flesh necrosis, and a whole host of other horrid symptoms!
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is another venomous pit viper found across a huge swathe of North America, reaching from Canada, across the United States, and into northern Mexico. Though they’re common across the continent, in Indiana, and most of the eastern United States, they’re officially classified as endangered.
Easy to spot, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake features a distinctive pattern of large black or brown patches. They live in a variety of different environments, including swamplands and drier grassy regions, where they feed on a diet of rodents, lizards, and smaller snakes. The eastern massasauga rattlesnake’s venom is mainly used to capture its prey, destroying the tissue of its victims whilst inducing internal bleeding or hemorrhaging.
Thankfully, attacks on humans perpetrated by this snake are incredibly rare. The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy by nature, preferring to avoid any confrontation with larger animals, particularly of the homosapien variety. Most bites have only occurred when humans have come directly into contact with the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, either through stepping on them in the wild or when handling them.
Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
The northern copperhead snake is the fourth and final venomous snake in Indiana. Mostly found in southern areas of the state, it also resides across much of the eastern and southern United States. Occasionally growing to over a meter in length, the northern copperhead’s body is typically a tanned brown color with distinctive markings all the way along. The orange-tinged hue on its head is the reason the snake gets its name.
Though venomous, the northern copperhead is known to have an incredibly relaxed nature. Rather than attacking predators, they’ll often freeze and keep still at any sign of danger. This sometimes backfires as they become camouflaged against their surroundings when frozen and people can accidentally step on them. Believe us – you certainly do not want to lose sight of one of these!
Most bites from a northern copperhead are generally non-life threatening and largely given as a warning to their transgressor. A bite with a full dose of venom can do plenty of damage, though, such as swelling, vomiting, and permanent damage to bone and muscle tissue.
Northern brown snake (S. dekayi)
The northern brown snake is one of the most common snakes in Indiana, and like the rest of the snakes on the remainder of our list, is also non-venomous. These snakes have a huge range of habitation, reaching all the way from Canada down through much of the eastern United States and as far as Central America in the tropics.
Though they’re one of the most common snakes in the Hoosier State, they’re also one of the smallest. The northern brown snake typically grows to a relatively tiny 12 inches, meaning that if you come across one you’ll probably not even notice it! In fact, the northern brown snake is so small it often falls prey to larger snakes in the wild.
Northern diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
The northern diamondback water snake is another non-venomous snake that is common in Indiana. Though it is harmless to humans, it bears a strong resemblance to the venomous timber rattlesnake and the western cottonmouth. This mistaken identity often proves fatal for the critter itself, as they’re regularly killed as people wrongly assume that they pose a threat.
Besides having a passing resemblance to their deadlier cousins, they do share similar behaviors when threatened, including hissing and biting. Though a bite will be painful, it will not be toxic. In reality, the northern diamondback water snake poses very little threat to humans, preferring to live near large bodies of water totally undisturbed.
Excellent swimmers, these guys like to hunt for prey by hanging over rivers and streams whilst wrapped around tree branches, dipping their head below water to catch fish with long sharp teeth.
Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
The eastern garter snake isn’t counted among the four major venomous snakes in Indiana. However, it does actually possess venom, just not the fangs to administer it in a single bite. Instead, these guys have a gland that has hemotoxic poison ready and waiting to help subdue any prey they catch in the wild.
They manage this by secreting the stuff into their saliva as they chew on small reptiles and insects, such as frogs, toads and worms. Like many of the snakes in Indiana, the eastern garter snake is commonly found throughout most of the eastern United States, as well as southern Canada and the northern states of Mexico.
A mid-sized snake, the eastern garter snake tends to grow to around half a meter in length. Highly adaptive, it is comfortable in a wide range of environments. That said, they prefer green spaces such as farmlands and forests, and they’re commonly found in urban areas too, particularly in and around parks and other partly rural districts of cities.
Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
The eastern hognose snake is another very common yet largely harmless snake found in Indiana. Adults tend to grow to around 70 centimeters in length and their bodies can be one of a wide variety of different colors and patterns. Depending on the region, an eastern hognose could be painted black, brown, orange, yellow or green, and feature a number of different patterns. Though harmless to humans, the eastern hognose snake is venomous to its prey.
The jaws of the eastern hognose snake feature a set of backwards facing fangs. These are used to inject venom into smaller animals such as toads, frogs and other small amphibians as they’re captured. The location of the teeth at the rear of the jaw, combined with the low levels of toxicity of their venom, means that they pose no risk to us humans.
If threatened, however, the eastern hognose snake will defend itself by hissing loudly and raising its head off the ground. If this fails, they’ve been known to attack by launching themselves at aggressors, though they very rarely bite. If all that fails, their final trick is to play dead and hope their attacker loses interest.
Eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)
The colorful eastern milk snake is as harmless as its name implies. The eastern milk snake is also one of the easiest to recognize, featuring a distinctive bold pattern of reddish-brown, white, and black stripes along its whole body. Mostly living in green rural spaces, such as farmland and woods, they’re sometimes confused with the timber rattlesnake despite their colorful markings.
Yet, unlike the timber rattlesnake, the eastern milk snake is incredibly mild-mannered and will only ever attack in very rare circumstances; only when it feels very threatened. In fact, the eastern milk snake is a very popular pet thanks to its calm temperament and laid-back nature. What’s more, their thin body and relatively small size means that they’re the ideal snake for those wanting to keep a reptile in captivity.
Queen snake (Regina septemvittata)
The queen snake lives in the heart of the USA, from the eastern banks of the Mississippi River all the way to the fringes of the Great Plains. That puts the land of Hoosier right in the midst of its geographic range, so it’s easy to see why these guys – who are listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN – are a regular spot for hikers and walkers in Indiana.
Often confused with the aforementioned garter snake, queens look almost identical. They have the same striped underbelly; the same clear yellow side marking that starts on the underside of the bottom lip and continues for the whole way down the body. The rest of the snake is a mix of dark brown and olive green.
Queen snakes are kinda’ picky about where they live. They demand areas with running freshwater and like good tree coverage to ensure there are branches for basking in the sun. Talking of basking, they’ll usually look for a twig that juts out over water, so they can fling themselves into the safety of the H2O whenever a racoon or mink comes looking to eat them.
Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
Although the black rat snake actually prefers the slightly balmier south side of the Midwest, it’s still present in Indiana and around the banks of the Great Lakes. Generally, though, these guys become more common as you head through Iowa, Oklahoma, and into northern Texas. They’re pretty flexible when it comes to habitat, enjoying everything from misty southern bayous to rolling prairie and grass plain.
You’re on the lookout for a snake that grows to roughly 150-180 centimeters long at full adulthood. That’s pretty darn hefty. In fact, one specimen of a black rat snake currently holds the record for being the longest ever found on the continent of North America – it measured in at a whopping 2.5 meters!
Black rate snakes are 100% non-venomous. They kill prey with constriction and suffocation, which works well against their chosen diet of small rodents, mice, and rats. Along with hognose snakes and other colubrid snakes, these are popular pets, known for their docile nature and ability to live for a long time in captivity.
Northern rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus)
We mention the northern rough green snake on our list of snakes in Indiana because it’s one seriously striking customer. Mimicking the deadly pit vipers of Southeast Asia a little, this colubrid snake is colored a bright, bold, lime green from the very top of the head to the very tip of the tail. They have a narrow neck, a whip-like body, and always appear alert to sounds and movements.
Sometimes called, simply, the green grass snake, the rough green snake is more common in the hotter southern US. It even lives across the border in the northernmost states of Mexico. But it’s also found all across Indiana, where it likes to reside in wet marshes, farm fields, and in light woodland without too much shade.
Snake aficionados will tell you that the northern rough green snake has one of the most fascinating courtship rituals in the snake world. The male of the species will often dance and twerk its head for up to three minutes at a time in order to impress potential mates!
Blue racer (Coluber constrictor foxii)
Last but most certainly not least comes the unique blue racer. This one gets its name because – you guessed it! – it’s blue. Yep, there’s a dash of cobalt-navy running the whole way along the top of the snake, starting on the head and ending in slightly lighter hues of blue towards the end of the body. Meanwhile, the underside comes in lighter grey and there’s a distinct black marking around the eyes.
Once prevalent across northern states and over in Ontario, Canada, the racer is now only known to reside in a handful of territories in the USA. Indiana is among them. In fact, Hoosier is thought to have one of the largest remaining populations of the critter of anywhere in the country.
Totally non-venomous, blue racers are now rarely seen in the wild, no matter where you go looking for them. They’ve not yet been listed as endangered by global organizations, but they are considered at risk by Canada’s national wildlife authorities.
What kind of snakes are common in Indiana?
The most common snakes in Indiana are the northern diamondback water snake, the northern brown snake, and the eastern garter snake.
How many types of venomous snakes are in Indiana?
There are four types of venomous snakes in Indiana, the timber rattlesnake, the western cottonmouth, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake and the northern copperhead.
What is the deadliest snake in the state of Indiana?
The deadliest snake in Indiana is the venomous timber rattlesnake, though it rarely attacks humans.
What is the largest snake in Indiana?
The largest snake in Indiana is the eastern rat snake, which can grow up to six feet long.