Snakes can be identified in many ways: geographical location, habitat, size, shape, texture, behavior or even scale type. Their markings, however, are key to identifying the particular species to which they belong. Snakes come in a variety of colors with diverse patterns rivaling tropical fish and birds in their brilliance and symphony of interlocking shapes. Snakes can run the gamut from having a single uniform color such as the green tree pit viper or northern black racer, to the intracacies of the oriental carpet-like Kirtlands snake or Gaboon viper. Common pattern types include stripes, bands, spots, blotches or geometric shapes.
Things You'll Need
- Field guide
Consult a field guide to identify snakes by their markings. Look for a field guide in your local bookstore, library or nature center.
Go online to a regional (statewide) website that organizes snake species by color and patterns to familiarize yourself with identifying markings.
Identify snakes with uniform (solid) colors commonly black, brown, tan, orange, yellow, gray, blue or green. These snakes are easiest to identify because they have no markings.
Identify snakes that have spots (small rounded marks usually without a border), blotches (large squarish or irregular-shaped markings, frequently with dark borders) or speckles (small flecks of color).
Identify snakes by their cross bands (running across the back and down the sides) or stripes (lines running lengthwise).
Identify snakes by their diamond patterns often with dark borders or dark and light borders.
Tips & Warnings
- Many times the patterns on the dorsal side (back) or belly are different. Familiarize yourself with the markings on both sides of the snake's body.
- On some species, the color may be darker on the head and neck and become lighter on the back.
- The smaller field guides that fit into a backpack or glove compartment can be taken with you on snake-identification expeditions.
- Many snakes, including the seemingly harmless garter snake, will attempt to bite or strike if disturbed. Observe at a safe distance when identifying markings.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
Identifying Snakes in Alabama
With practice and a good field guide, you can learn to identify Alabama's snakes. When you encounter a snake, you should first...
How to Identify the Snakes of Georgia
Snakes in Georgia can be identified by two types, poisonous and non-poisonous. Of the 41 species of snakes found in Georgia, only...
How to Identify Snakes in the Northeast
In the northeastern United States, snakes are fewer in numbers than they are further south, where warmer climates exist. However, outdoor enthusiasts...
How to Identify Snakes in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are made up of a group of around 1,700 scattered islands, extending from about 15 miles south of Miami...
Black & Yellow Snakes in South Carolina
Snakes strike fear in the heart of many, but most of the 42 species of snakes found in South Carolina are harmless,...
Black Snakes With Yellow Spots in Tennessee
Speckled king snakes and black king snakes -- two subspecies of the common king snake -- are the only two snakes native...
Facts on Black Rat Snakes
Black rat snakes are carnivorous reptiles native to eastern parts of North America. Although these snakes are skillful hunters of small animals,...