If you want to learn about the different snakes in West Virginia, you’re in the right place. West Virginia has a diverse range of snakes, with 22 species and two families.
You’ll find snakes as small as 10 inches and ones spanning up to six feet. Moreover, West Virginia has a couple of habitats where you can find a variety of snakes. Despite the stigma around snakes, most in West Virginia are harmless.
Are there evil ones? What are nonvenomous snakes and their types? How do you deal with nonvenomous snakes if you stumble upon them? Keep reading to learn the answers to all these questions.
Most Popular Snakes in West Virginia
In this section, we’ll talk about the most popular snake species that you can find in West Virginia.
First Family: The Non-venomous Colubridae
Eastern Garter Snake
Eastern Garter snakes are also known as “Common” Eastern Garter snakes, as they’re a common sight in West Virginia.
They come with a unique striped pattern and can grow up to two feet long. Eastern Garters are harmless but release a foul, musky odor when they feel threatened—which you may want to avoid doing.
Eastern Milk Snake
The Eastern Milk snake comes with reddish-brown blotches on its light-colored exterior. Eastern Milks grow to be two feet long.
It’s easy to confuse these eastern worm snakes with their evil counterparts—Northern Copperheads. However, Eastern Milk snakes aren’t venomous.
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Black Ratsnakes are a non-venomous species that grow around five to eight feet long. They’re solid black except for some white, yellow, and red hues between the scales.
If you want to spot a Black Ratsnake, aim for woodlands, especially around river flood plains, open fields, swamp borders, and rocky hillsides.
Second Family: The Venomous Viperidae
Northern Copperhead snakes are the most common venomous species in West Virginia. You can tell you’re in the face of a Northern Copperhead if you notice a bent hourglass shape over their back. Not to mention, as their name implies, they have a copper-colored head.
While they’re venomous, a bite from a Northern Copperhead isn’t fatal—as long as you quickly take the antivenom.
The Timber Rattlesnake is less common than the Northern Copperhead but is also venomous. You’ll likely encounter a timber rattlesnake if you hang around mountainous areas, especially ones with talus slopes. The distinctive rattles on the end of their tails are your telltale sign to identify them.
They grow to 36 and up to 60 inches, which isn’t too hard to miss. Timber Rattlesnakes usually have a dark brown or gray body with a pinkish hue.
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What to Do If You Encounter a Snake While in West Virginia?
If you encounter a snake, whether venomous or not, start by keeping calm and giving the snake plenty of space to retreat. Don’t try to handle or kill the worm snake, as any action you do will increase the risk of the snake biting you. Instead, back away calmly and slowly from the snake and encourage it with space to move away from you.
Snake Habitats in West Virginia
If you’re a snake enthusiast and want to meet some of the most common snakes in West Virginia, you should know where to look. Here are common areas where you’ll spot West Virginia snakes.
Forest floors are a ripe area for snakes to thrive. You’ll typically find Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnakes. This is especially true in wooded areas, where they can hide under logs, rocks, or leaf litter.
Near Water Sources
You’ll likely encounter a Diamondback or Northern Water Snake around ponds, streams, or rivers. These excellent swimmers bask near logs or rocks around the water’s edge.
Grassy Fields and Meadows
Eastern Hognose snakes and Eastern Garter snakes are big meadows and grassy field fans. They like to burrow in the soil, and the grass snake may bask around warm surfaces or rocks around green areas.
Now that you’ve learned about the various species of snakes found in West Virginia, you can better appreciate the important role they play in the state’s ecosystem.
Moreover, you can see them during hikes, knowing when you can approach them and when you should return upon facing a snake bite from a venomous snake.
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What’s the most common snake in West Virginia?
Many states have large numbers of common garter snakes, and West Virginia isn’t different.
Are there any venomous snakes in West Virginia?
Although they’re not many, and most water snakes are non-venomous, there are a couple of venomous snakes in West Virginia, including the Timber Rattlesnake and Northern Copperhead.
Are there cottonmouth snakes in West Virginia?
No, cottonmouths—or water moccasins—don’t exist in West Virginia. Southern Virginia and North Carolina are the northernmost areas where cottonmouths can be found.
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