Florida Snakes Identification

This simplified key is an aid to the identification of the snakes of Florida for use by laymen with no technical training in herpetology. To use it you only have to observe the color and characteristics of the scales on the back and on the belly of the snake.

How to Use this Key:

  1. Start with the first question. Decide whether 1a or 1b best describes the characteristics of the snake you are trying to identify. (There are links to examples of these traits if you need help.)
  2. If the snake is striped, click on 6; if it is not striped, click on 2. Your choice will lead you to the next appropriate pair of questions.
  3. Work through the questions, each time choosing the characteristic that best matches your snake from the two choices. This will lead you to the final choice which identifies the snake.

The key is so simplified that occasionally it will lead you to an incorrect identification. To check the accuracy, click on the name and compare your snake with the photographs and description. Each account compares that species to the other snakes with which it is most often confused, so with a click or two you can check those species and confirm the identity of your snake.

Full description of Color Patterns and Scale Structures

Use this column to see helpful examples Use these links to choose between A & B on the left
1a Snake striped stripes 6
1b Snake not striped 2
2a Snake blotched stripes 13
2b Snake not blotched 3
3a Snake crossbanded stripes 22
3b Snake not crossbanded 4
4a Snake with diamonds down its back, overlapping black-edged brown diamonds with white border; rattle on tan or brown tail stripes snake Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake,
Crotalus adamanteus
4b Snake not with diamonds 5
5a Snake ringed on entire body with same colors on back and belly stripes 28
5b Snake nearly one uniform color, belly color different from back color stripes 29
6a Scales are smooth stripes 7
6b Scales are keeled stripes 9
7a Back glossy black, 3 red stripes, belly red with black spots, sharp spine on tip of tail; large, 35-66" (89-167 cm). stripes snakeRainbow Snake, Farancia erytrogramma
7b Back brown, yellow, or orange 8
8a Back brownish-yellow, yellow, or orange, with 4 dark stripes; medium to large, 34-101" (86-257 cm) stripes snakeRat Snake, Pantherophis alleghaniensis
8b Back dark iridescent brown, with 2 light stripes high on sides and another yellowish stripe low on side stripes snakeStriped Crayfish Snake, Regina alleni
9a Belly dark or with dark stripes or markings stripes 10
9b Belly uniform white to yellow to green stripes 11
10a Belly with 4 dark stripes (2 down middle and 1 down each side) stripes snakeQueen Snake, Regina septemvittata
10b Belly dark, with or without row of light spots down middle stripes snakeSalt Marsh Snake, Nerodia clarkii
11a Back glossy dark brown with faint lighter stripes high on sides; medium sized, 14-31 3/8" (36-79 cm). stripes snakeGlossy Crayfish Snake, Regina rigida
11b Not glossy 12
12a Back brown to black with 3 yellow to blue stripes stripes snakeEastern Ribbon Snake, Thamnophis sauritus
12b Back greenish with 3 yellow, brownish, or bluish stripes and alternating row of dark spots between the stripes stripes snakeCommon Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis
13a Snout upturned; head and neck flattened and spread when frightened 14
13b Snout not upturned; head and neck not flattened when frightened 15
14a Underside of tail lighter than belly snakeEastern Hognose Snake, Heterodon platirhinos
14b Underside of tail not lighter than belly snakeSouthern Hognose Snake, Heterodon simus
15a Back yellow or reddish-orange with black-edged reddish blotches down middle alternating with smaller blotches on side; belly black and white checkerboard stripes snakeEastern Corn Snake, Pantherophis guttatus
15b Back gray or brown with blotches; belly not black and white checkerboard stripes 16
16a Tiny rattle on tail; black blotches down back separated by reddish spots stripes snakeDusky Pigmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius
16b No rattle on tail; no reddish spots between dark blotches on back stripes 17
17a Back brown with large squarish dark blotches down middle; belly yellow with dark spots; heavy-bodied, 28-69" (71-175 cm) stripes snakeBrown Water Snake, Nerodia taxispilota
17b Back gray or grayish-brown with blotches stripes 18
18a Front of body grayish, rear rusty brown with poorly defined saddle-like blotches, or black, knob-like scale on nose; hisses loudly and furiously; large, 48-100" (122-254 cm) stripes snakePine Snake, Pituophis melanoleucus
18b Gray or light brown with well-defined dark blotches stripes 19
19a Gray with dark brown blotches down middle of back separated by yellowish spots; belly white with dark blotches stripes snakeShort-tailed Kingsnake, Lampropeltis extenuata
19b Dark blotches not separated by yellowish spots
stripes stripes
20a Blotches reddish brown; belly not marked stripes 21
20b Blotches blackish; belly yellowish or pinkish or blotched with black stripes snakeGray Rat Snake,
Pantherophis spiloides

or snakeRat Snake,
Pantherophis alleghaniensis
21a Belly pinkish; blotches brown to reddish-brown; small-sized, 8-14" (20-36 cm) stripes snakejuvenile Eastern Racer, Coluber constrictor
21b Belly white; blotches black-edged reddish-brown; medium-sized, 30-45" (76-114 cm) stripes snakeMole Kingsnake, Lampropeltis calligaster
22a Sharp, bright red, black, and white crossbands; belly white stripes snakeScarlet Snake, Cemophora cocinnea
22b Back yellowish-brown, brown, or black with light or dark crossbands stripes 23
23a Back pinkish-gray to brown with chevron-like black crossbands broken by reddish stripe down middle; rattle on black tail; pit between nostril and eye stripes snakeTimber Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus
23b Back yellowish, reddish or black; no rattle on tail 24
24a Top of head broad and flat, much wider than neck; pit between nostril and eye 25
24b Top of head rounded, not flat; no pit between nostril and eye 26
25a Broad dark cheek stripe with light borders; black spotting in dark crossbands stripes snakeCottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus
25b No broad dark cheek stripe; no dark spotting in dark crossbands stripes snakeCopperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix
26a Back yellowish-brown to black with narrow light crossbands (chain-like in black specimens); belly white to brown with yellow smudges stripes snakeCommon Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula
26b Back reddish-brown to dark brown with wide dark crossbands; stout-bodied, 16-62" (41-159 cm) stripes 27
27a Dark line from eye to corner of mouth; belly yellowish with reddish or darker markings snakeSouthern Water Snake, Nerodia fasciata
27b No dark line from eye to corner of mouth; belly yellowish-white snakeMidland Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon pleuralis
28a Ringed with bright red, white, and black; nose red stripes snakeScarlet Kingsnake, Lampropeltis elapsoides
28b Ringed with red, yellow, and black; nose black stripes snakeEastern Coral Snake, Micrurus fulvius
29a Scales are smooth stripes 30
29b Scales are keeled stripes 40
30a Body dark, mostly black, brown, or dark gray 31
30b Body silver-gray to pink to purple 36
31a Back black or bluish 32
31b Back brown snakeEastern Smooth Earth Snake ,
Virginia valeriae valeriae
32a Belly black, gray, or bluish 33
32b Belly red, orange or pink (rarely white) 34
33a Back iridescent black, chin suffused with white or orange snakeEastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi
33b Back black or blue-gray, chin white to brown; active, alert, long and slender snakeEastern Racer, Coluber constrictor
34a Orange, yellow or cream ring across back of neck; small size, 4–12" (10-30 cm) stripes snakeRingneck Snake, Diadophis punctatus
34b No ring across neck stripes 35
35a Spike on tip of tail; nose broadly rounded; large, 38-81" (97-206 cm) snakeMud Snake, Farancia abacura
35b No spike on tail; nose not broad; small, 7–13" (18–34 cm) snakeBlack Swamp Snake, Seminatrix pygeae
36a 'Blind' (eyes hidden under scales), small worm-like, 5-12" (13-30 cm); tiny spine on blunt tail snakeBrahminy Blind Snake, Ramphotyphlops braminus
36b Not blind and worm-like 37
37a Slender tan whip-like snake, head and neck may be dark brown; large, 36-102" (91-259 cm) snakeEastern Coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum flagellum
37b Small tan snake with black cap on head and neck; 5-13" (13-33 cm) 38
38a No white collar between black cap on head and neck, found only in Dade and Monroe counties snakeRim Rock Crowned Snake, Tantilla oolitica
38b White collar between black cap on head and neck, or if collar is absent the snake is found elsewhere in peninsular Florida 39
39a White collar continuous between black cap on head and neck snakeSoutheastern Crowned Snake, Tantilla coronata
39b White collar broken at midline or absent snakeFlorida Crowned Snake, Tantilla relicta
40a Color primarily black or dark brown 41
40b Color essentially light brown, tan or green 44
41a Snout upturned; head and neck flattened and spread when frightened snakeEastern Hognose Snake, Heterodon platirhinos
41b Snout not upturned; head and neck not flattened and spread 42
42a Top of head broad and flat, much wider than neck, broad dark cheek stripe with light borders; pit between nostril and eye snakeCottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus
42b Top of head rounded, not broad and flat; no broad cheek stripe; no pit between nostril and eye 43
43a Dark line from eye to corner of mouth snakeSouthern Water Snake, Nerodia fasciata
43b No dark line from eye to corner of mouth snakeMidland Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon pleuralis
44a Color green or greenish (occasionally reddish) 45
44b Color light brown to tan 47
45a Back pea green, belly white to yellow-green; long and slender snakeRough Green Snake, Opheodrys aestivus
45b Back olive green (occasionally reddish), heavy-bodied 46
46a Belly dark with light spots snakeMississippi Green Water Snake, Nerodia cyclopion
46b Belly light snakeFlorida Green Water Snake, Nerodia floridana
47a Back reddish brown, belly clear orange to yellow; medium-sized, 30-62" (76-157 cm) snakePlainbelly Water Snake, Nerodia erythrogaster
47b Back brown, reddish brown, yellowish brown to dark gray, belly cream, yellow or red; small, 7-21" (18-53 cm) 48
48a Upper lip white snakePine Woods Snake, Rhadinea flavilata
48b Upper lip not white 49
49a Light collar across back of neck followed by dark crossband snakeDekay's Brown Snake, Storeria dekayi

or snakeFlorida Brown Snake, Storeria victa
49b No light collar on neck 50
50a Indistinct light stripe down middle of back, belly red or orange stripes snakeRedbelly Snake, Storeria occipitomaculata
50b No light line down back, belly cream to yellow snakeRough Earth Snake, Virginia striatula

Full description of Color Patterns and Scale Structures

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