Louisiana is home to dozens of snake species, and according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, most are harmless. They rarely pursue humans, and are only aggressive when they feel threatened. Even in heavily wooded areas, you may never encounter a snake, because they usually stay hidden unless they’re searching for food or a mate. Even venomous snakes can usually be avoided, because most can only strike up to 5 or 6 feet away, and most can’t crawl over five miles per hour. Whether venomous or harmless, each of southern Louisiana’s snake species plays a role in the region’s ecosystem.
Banded Water Snake
This snake is found throughout Louisiana, most frequently near freshwater or swamps, and sometimes near brackish bodies of water. It measures between 16 and 45 inches, and ranges in color from dark brown to almost black, with thin tan or yellow bands and a pale orange band from the eye to the jaw.
Brahminy Blind Snake
Native to southern Asia, this garden-variety snake was imported to New Orleans in the 1990s and has not yet been spotted outside the city. It measures between 3 and 6 inches, has smooth scales and is black or brown. They favor loose soil, burrowing into the ground and sometimes surfacing during or after rainfall.
This garden-variety snake is found throughout Louisiana and is the snake seen most frequently in both suburban and urban areas. They usually stay burrowed beneath leaves or thick ground cover. Though they are not venomous, they are often mistaken for dangerous snakes because of the way they sometimes flatten their heads and coil and strike when they feel threatened. They measure between 7 and 16 inches, and are tan or brown with a pale band.
Found in forested or wooded areas, this snake is most active at night and early morning, especially during the summer. It measures between 14 and 45 inches, and is tan, beige or pale gray. When young, copperheads have a bright yellow tail. While not aggressive, the copperhead is a potential hazard, because it often lies still and camouflaged, making it difficult to avoid.
The cottonmouth is also known as the water moccasin, and spends most of its life near water, inhabiting lakes, streams, marshes, rivers and swamps. It is a venomous snake, active mainly at night and described by The Nature Conservancy as “ill-tempered.” It can grow to more than 6 feet, and is dark brown, black or olive-green.
Salt Marsh Snake
This water snake is found in coastal marshes, including the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It measures between 15 and 35 inches, and is pale gray or tan with three dark brown or black stripes and dark band across the eye. Underneath, the salt marsh snake is a dark reddish-brown, with pale spots.
Western Rat Snake
Found in southern Louisiana's low-lying areas in the central portions of the state, the Western Rat Snake is usually between 25 and 48 inches and tan or gray with dark brown or black spots. This non-venomous snake is most often found in areas with a combination of farmlands, woodlands and pastures. They are agile climbers and may be spotted in high places such as trees or the rafters of barns.
Western Ribbon Snake
Measuring between 16 and 42 inches, these snakes are black or brown with yellow, orange or white stripe down the back and a pale stripe down the side. They live mainly in grassland or woodland areas, usually around water, swamps and marshes.