September 25, 2023

The Smoky Mountains are known for being home to lots of wildlife diversity. Though the most well-known wildlife are black bears, elk, deer, and birds, there are a number of other types of wildlife you could encounter in the Smokies, including reptiles like snakes. There are more than twenty different species of snakes in the Smoky Mountains, but thankfully only two of these species are venomous. Here’s your guide to the various types of snakes in the Smoky Mountains:

Venomous Snakes in the Smoky Mountains: Timber Rattlesnake

timber rattlesnake

There are only two types of venomous snakes in the Smoky Mountains. The Timber Rattlesnake, also known as the Timber Rattler, is the most toxic of the two species. However, as a rattlesnake, this species is known for creating a loud rattle sound as a warning to let you know if you are getting too close. Aside from its rattle, you can identify the Timber Rattlesnake by its triangular-shaped head, vertical slit eyes, and location. These snakes are typically found around rocky outcrops and hillsides or man-made structures like stone buildings and fences. Their bodies are usually brown in color but can range from orange to black.

Venomous Snakes in the Smoky Mountains: Northern Copperhead

northern copperhead

The Northern Copperhead, on the other hand, is not a rattlesnake and therefore gives no warning when you are too close. However, this species is generally not toxic enough to kill, though its bite is still very painful. Like the Timber Rattler, the Northern Copperhead also has a triangular-shaped head and vertical eye slits, as do all venomous snakes. Copperheads can also be identified by their coloring. They have a coppery-red head and distinctive dark brown bands on their body that look like hourglasses or Hershey’s Kisses. Copperheads are most likely to be found in crevices of rocks like those along riverbanks or around man-made stone structures and fences.

Non-Venomous Snakes in the Smoky Mountains

eastern milk snake

There are significantly more non-venomous snakes in the Smoky Mountains than venomous ones. That means you’re much more likely to come across one of these species than their more dangerous cousins. You can recognize that a snake is non-venomous if it has a more rounded head and round pupils. The types of non-venomous snakes you may see in the Smoky Mountains include:

  • Black Kingsnake
  • Black Rat Snake
  • Corn Snake
  • Eastern Earth Snake
  • Eastern Garter Snake
  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Eastern Kingsnake
  • Eastern Milk Snake
  • Eastern Worm Snake
  • Midland Brown Snake
  • Mole Kingsnake
  • Northern Black Racer
  • Northern Brown Snake
  • Northern Pine Snake
  • Northern Redbelly Snake
  • Northern Ring-Neck Snake
  • Northern Scarlet Snake
  • Northern Water Snake
  • Rough Green Snake
  • Scarlet Kingsnake
  • Southeastern Crowned Snake
  • Queen Snake

What to Do if You See a Snake

northern water snake

If you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains, pay attention to the environment around you and where you step. Listen for warning rattles from upset Timber Rattlesnakes. If you’re climbing on rocks, look before putting your hands anywhere, as rocky outcrops are favorite places for snakes to sunbathe. Make sure you wear sturdy closed-toe shoes–preferably hiking boots–to protect your feet. If you do see snakes in the Smoky Mountains, do not interact with them. Give them plenty of space, as this is their home. Feeding or touching wildlife is prohibited in the national park. It is also illegal to harm or kill wildlife, including snakes.

What to Do if a Snake Bites You

It’s important to note that there has never been a recorded fatality due to a venomous snake in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so don’t let the fear of getting bit deter you from exploring the Smokies. If a snake does bite you, it’s important to stay calm and call 911, even if you don’t think the snake was venomous. Make note of its appearance or try to safely get a photo to show to a healthcare professional. If you can, elevate the bite at or above heart level. If a venomous snake bites you, do not try to remove the venom yourself and instead seek immediate medical attention.

More Reptiles in the Smokies

Snakes are just one of the three major groups of reptiles that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn more about the other reptiles in the Smoky Mountains that you may get the chance to see when you visit!