Laws About Killing Snakes in Tennessee


There are 32 species of snakes in Tennessee. However, only four of these species are venomous. These include the timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, cottonmouth and copperhead. While snakes can be intimidating to Tennessee residents, these creatures are still an important part of the state's natural ecosystem, helping to control rodent and pest populations.

Killing Native Snakes in Tennessee

  • It is illegal to kill any species of snakes native to the state of Tennessee, venomous or non-venomous. The only rare exception is made for a homeowner who feels genuinely threatened by a snake. This exception particularly applies to a homeowner who finds a snake inside of their home. It is also legal to defend livestock that are being threatened by a snake. This means that it is always illegal to go out into the wild and kill a snake in its natural Tennessee habitat.

Capturing Native Tennessee Snakes

  • It is also against the law to catch a native Tennessee snake, venomous or non-venomous, and keep it detained as a pet. This includes snakes found in or around your home and snakes taken from the wild. Attempting to keep, harm or kill any native snake is illegal and punishable by fine. If you would like to make one of these native non-venomous snakes a pet, you must purchase it from a licensed breeder.

Exotic Venomous Snakes in Tennessee

  • It is illegal to have an exotic venomous snake in Tennessee. Exotic venomous snakes refer to poisonous snakes that do not occur naturally in the state's ecosystem, such as king cobras. People who are discovered with an exotic venomous snake as a pet potentially face fines and time in jail.

Exotic Non-Venomous Snakes in Tennessee

  • Most non-venomous exotic snakes are allowed as pets in Tennessee and are generally not regulated by the state. However, these animals may be regulated by local authorities. You may be required to obtain a permit and meet certain requirements to keep one of these snakes. There are typically fees involved when obtaining these permits. Check with your local authorities to ensure you are in compliance before making one of these snakes a pet.

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