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Be careful if youre thinking about killing a snake youve encountered, as many are protected by law. Almost all snakes in Arkansas are protected unless youre in immediate danger. Make sure you know the specific laws in your region.
As a vital part of our ecosystem, snakes keep pests in control and are an excellent food source for larger animals.
What are 12 of the black snakes in Arkansas? Well look at some pictures and discuss details about each one.
1. Northern Cottonmouth
Cottonmouths are found statewide, though theyre rarely seen in the Ouachita Mountains or the Ozark Highlands. These snakes prefer wet habitats such as ditches, streams, swamps, and sloughs. Their diet consists of snakes, birds, rodents, fish, and frogs.
Also known as water mocassins, cottonmouths are pit vipers. They have heat-sensing pits on either side of their face that they use to detect prey around them. Theyre mostly black, though some individuals may be a shade of brown. They have crossbands, but on black snakes, theyre barely distinguishable unless theyre wet.
When cottonmouths bare their mouths at a threat, its white. This is why they earned the cotton moniker.
2. Southern Black Racer
Southern black racers are smooth snakes. They prefer forested habitats, fields, and where those two converge. Theyre constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them to death.
Scientists discovered an instance where a great horned owl was killed by a southern black racer that then died of its wounds. The bird was found with the snake coiled around it. This provides an interesting perspective on the dangerous and overlapping feeding patterns of large birds and snakes.
3. Black Rat Snake
The underside of the black rat snakes head is white, and its back appears shiny. Its an excellent climber and prefers anywhere that has trees.
Black rat snakes are constrictors, and they kill rats, birds, and mice by squeezing them until they die. They also eat bird eggs and are known thieves of chicken coops.
In the wild, theyre often confused for cottonmouths, like most black snakes on our list. These snakes are nonvenomous and mostly harmless, and they make great pet snakes.
4. Coachwhip Snake
Coachwhip snakes are not all black, but their heads are black, which tapers to brown or tan at the tip of their tail. Like most of the snakes on our list, its only some individuals that have the black coloring. Reliably, coachwhip snakes always match the colors of their habitat.
These snakes feed on lizards, mice, snakes, and birds. They pursue their prey, catch it in their strong jaws, and usually swallow the victim whole.
5. Ribbon Snake
Found all over the state, ribbon snakes have black bodies with bright and bold stripes running down the length of their bodies. These snakes like to live near the edges of bodies of water like streams, rivers, swamps, and marshes. They like to eat little fish and frogs, but theyre also known to chow down on earthworms.
6. Western Mud Snake
Mud snakes are smooth snakes that can be found in the Mississippi Delta and the Coastal Plain. These snakes are bluish-black or black with a red belly, so like other black snakes in Arkansas, theyre not always black. Mud snakes are aquatic and like sloughs, lakes, and streams.
7. Grahams Crayfish Snake
Grahams crayfish snakes are found in the Coastal Plain, the Mississippi Delta, and the western Arkansas River Valley. While theyre technically brown, they look more black than brown when it is wet. Thats why they earn their spot on our list.
These snakes like to hang out in trees above their water source. They eat mainly crayfish and use their burrows as hideouts or to avoid the heat. Frogs and tadpoles are also on the menu.
8. Western Worm Snake
Western worm snakes have flat heads that help them burrow into the ground. Theyre called worm snakes because they only eat earthworms. These snakes are found in empty agricultural fields and are rarely found in more wild habitats.
Worm snakes are found everywhere in Arkansas except the Mississippi River lowlands. Theyre small snakes and grow up to a foot in length.
9. Ringneck Snake
Ringneck snakes live in pastures, forests, fields, and everywhere they mix. They are hiders that prefer rocks and logs. They live west of the White River. These snakes have a diet that consists of salamanders, insects, lizards, and earthworms.
10. Flathead Snake
Flathead snakes have fangs in the back of their mouths. When they bite, they chew, and a gland releases poison into the wound. This isnt the same as being venomous, as venomous implies an injection of a toxin. Rather, poison refers to a substance that is toxic to the touch.
11. Plainbelly Water Snake
Plainbelly water snakes are mistaken for cottonmouths even though theyre very different snakes. Their saliva is poisonous, and they repeatedly bite, though it poses little threat to humans except for pain.
These snakes are also called yellow-bellied water snakes because their stomachs are yellow. They like to be by the water, but they arent fans of swift water.
12. Common Garter Snake
Common garter snakes are opportunistic feeders that will take advantage of any food source in their environment. Thats why theyre able to live in a variety of places, including urban gardens. Their propensity to be found in gardens is why theyre also known as garden snakes.
Garter snakes are nonvenomous, but they have toxic saliva like some other black snakes found in Arkansas. This saliva isnt harmful to humans, but it helps subdue prey.
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