There are more than 30 species of indigenous snakes in our state, but only SIX (6) are venomous. They are Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Pygmy Rattlesnake, Canebrake/Timber Rattlesnake, Diamondback Rattlesnake, and Coral Snake. Know these 6 and you will know all you need to know when a snake catches you by surprise. If it’s not one of these six species, it should not be a danger to humans or pets. Nonvenomous species of snake are beneficial to have around as they keep the rodent population in check and deter venomous species from inhabiting the area.
This is a very BASIC, quick guide. Information is posted with each picture. There are links below the pictures for more information on each species. The best website I have found that focuses on all indigenous snakes of SC is put together by the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.
If you have snake or other nuisance wildlife problems in Kershaw County call your local South Carolina Department of Natural Resources licensed wildlife control operator at 803-427-0551 or 803-427-1350.
Adult Cottonmouth Adult Cottonmouth swimming Juvenile Cottonmouth
Some people call these Water Mocassins, but the actual name is Cottonmouth. They are known for the white inside their mouth. The Cottonmouth swims with its body on top of the water, as opposed to water snakes who swim with only their heads above water. They are vipers so they have elliptical pupils (cat eyes). Cottonmouths have keeled scales. Cottonmouth babies and juveniles have a lighter color and are more boldly patterned. They are often mistaken for Copperheads. More info on the Cottonmouth.
Adult Pygmy Rattlesnake Juvenile Pygmy Rattlesnake
Small Rattlesnakes, most noted for their dark splotches. The rattle on this snake is small and difficult to hear. Like other vipers, they have elliptical pupils (cat eyes). Their scales are keeled. Babies look like adults but have yellow-tipped tails. More info on the Pygmy Rattlesnake.
Timber Rattlesnakes are known for their chevron (Charlie Brown shirt) pattern. They have very distinguishable rattles. Like other vipers, the Timber Rattlesnake has elliptical pupils (cat eyes). They have keeled scales. The babies are mini replicas of the adults, but the colors are more brilliant. More information on the Timber Rattlesnake.
Often billed as the most popular rattlesnake this species is well known for the diamond pattern on its back. Like other vipers, it has elliptical pupils (cat eyes). Its rattles are quite distinguishable. Its scales are keeled. Baby Diamondbacks are mini versions of the adults. There is legislation to add the Eastern Diamondback to the endangered species list. More info on the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
Coral Snakes are slender and their body shape is more worm-like. They can grow up to 4 ft, but the typical size is just over 2ft. Coral Snakes are NOT vipers therefore they have round pupils, which often confuses people who think ALL venomous snakes have ‘cat eyes’. There are other species that are non-venomous that have a similar appearance to Coral Snakes. The best way to remember these are venomous is the old rhyme, “If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow. If red touches black, you’re OK, Jack”. Coral Snakes have smooth scales, unlike vipers who have keeled scales. Baby Coral Snakes look just like the adults. More info on Coral snakes.