4 Types of Snakes You Will Encounter on the Appalachian Trail

Cue the Indiana Jones theme song and get ready to break out that whip because you’re about to enter the viper pit. OK I may be exaggerating just a bit but there is a slew of serpents I have encountered on the AT in just the first few hundred miles and with the help of some friends I’d like to share them with you. Please note that none of these snakes are considered venomous. If you should run into a snake do not attempt to handle it whether it’s venomous or not as they can still bite you.

Brown Water Snake

Brown Water Snake

The brown water snake is very heavy-bodied, and its neck is distinctly narrower than its head. It is brown or rusty brown with a row of about 25 black or dark brown square blotches down its back. You will usually find them near a creek or stream or hiding under logs. This type of snake is commonly mistaken to be a Copperhead which is venomous, so it’s best to steer clear of if you’re not sure.

Southern Black Racer

Black Racer Snake

A common subspecies of nonvenomous constrictor snakes in the Southeastern United States. These snakes are quite active during the day, which increases the chance of sightings. They will eat almost any animal they can overpower, including, rodents, frogs, toads, and lizards. Be warned shelter mice!

Eastern Hognose Snake

Hognose Snake

Although this species has large rear fangs and a mild venom, it is considered harmless to humans. When confronted, its first defense is an aggressive display in which it spreads its neck horizontally, inflates its body, hisses loudly, and strikes. The very impressive display has earned it the misname of “Spread Adder” and other frightening names. This is all an act. The strike is made with a closed mouth, and it is very, very rare for a Hognose to actually bite a person, even when handled. If aggression fails to send the threat on its way, the Hognose will pretended to die. It will writhe, open the mouth, let the tongue dangle, salivate and get dirt in the mouth, roll onto its back and become motionless. If the threat moves out of the snake’s view, it will begin to peak around in a few minutes, and, if the coast is clear, right itself and crawl away.

Northern Ringneck Snake

Ringneck Snake

This little guy only grows a few feet long and can easily be overlooked as a stick or disgardded piece of string. It is bluish-black in color, with a yellow or red ring around its neck, and a matching belly. They are nocturnal, so they are mostly seen at night. Ringneck snakes are sociable, which means they are often found hiding together.

There are many more species of snakes that you are likely to encounter on the trail including venomous snakes such as the Cottonmouth, Rattlesnake, and Copperhead, which can cause serious bodily harm. So keep your eyes peeled when nature calls. I’d like to thank Hellbender and Glacier for being my designated snake handlers. None of these snakes were harmed and I advise if you happen to see one you just let it be. If you have a snake story please share it in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!

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Comments 5

  • Scrappy Malloy : Apr 30th

    That one Rugrats episode w/ “Reptar on Ice” – So damn good…

  • Dale Blevins : Apr 30th

    Yeah leave it be, unless your hungry of course, ALL snakes can be eaten!

  • Putt-Putt : May 5th

    Found this one today. Putt-Putt.

  • jbo : May 9th

    I once was hiking on the AT in Northern Georgia, near Blood Mountain, and met a person on the trail, who was very happy to have seen a rattlesnake earlier in the day. The person then commenced to explain he had cut off the rattles of the snake, but he didn’t kill the snake. The point of this story is not to kill the snake after cutting off it’s rattles. The point of this story is to explain we all have a responsibility on the AT, or any trail for that matter, to respect nature, and leave what we see the way we found it. We should strive to leave the area in better shape than we found it when possible. We also have a responsibility to be considerate of our fellow hikers, and cutting off the rattles of a rattlesnake is very inconsiderate to our fellow hikers, and anyone else who may encounter a snake that has had its rattles removed. When a rattlesnake loses its rattles, then there is no warning noise to let a person know of its presence. This can cause some unsuspecting person to be bitten, and may cause that person to be put in a life threatening situation. It is much better to leave no trace, and to not destroy what we have been granted the opportunity to observe.

    • Sami F : Jul 3rd

      Very True thank you it’s not very smart idea. Surely wasn’t thinking of others when cutting off that rattler. Especially children they are very curious and killed a kid. I hate ignorance.


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