Non Venomous Snakes

Natural History

There are 30 snake species in Virginia and only three of them are venomous. The Nature Center is home to four of the 30 native snake species and can be found throughout the exhibit or in the Discovery Room. These include the corn snake, eastern black rat snake, pine snake, and eastern kingsnake. In general, snakes have a poor sense of sight and hearing, so they rely on their sense of smell and taste. They also use their bellies to pick up on vibrations to detect predators. All snakes have teeth but only venomous snakes have fangs.

Our corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are named Marco and Pop and serve as an animal ambassadors. Corn snakes are found throughout Virginia and are frequently mistaken for northern copperheads and are, unfortunately, often killed. These snakes are rather secretive and burrow. Their diet consists of rodents, fledgling birds, and small lizards.

The eastern black rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniesis) is both a ground and tree dwelling snake that can be found in urban and rural areas throughout Virginia. These snakes are active during the day (diurnal) and night (nocturnal).

The pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus), also called a bull snake in the Midwest, is a secretive and burrowing snake. Since they are a burrowing snake, they prey upon moles, voles, and other underground dwellers. When threatened, pine snakes will loudly hiss, puff up, vibrate their tails, either in dry brush or independently, expel musk, and will occasionally strike.

Maymont’s eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) was named Rex by staff members. Kingsnakes are completely terrestrial and diurnal.They prey upon other snakes such as pit vipers as well as rodents and lizards. These snakes can be found on the coastal plains and Piedmont regions of Virginia. It was once thought that seeing or killing a kingsnake would cause a thunderstorm.

Fun Facts

  • Of the Virginia snake species 16 lay eggs and 14 give birth to their offspring live (ovoviparous).
  • The black racer is the only snake that will “chase” you. This usually happens when you are blocking access to their burrow or if you are in the territory of a breeding male.
  • The longest snake in Virginia is the black rat, reaching up to 102 inches or 8.5 feet long!
  • Snakes are reptiles, which means they lay eggs (mostly), have scaly skin, are cold blooded, and are vertebrates.
  • They shed their skin when they outgrow their current size.