14 Central Texas Snakes To Look Out For

14 Central Texas Snakes To Look Out For

Snake! We know these slithery critters can spark fear in the hearts of many Texans. But, trust us, you don't need the shovel for these serpents. 

Snakes are wildly misunderstood. Some love 'em, some hate 'em. But, for everyone's safety, including your pet, you need to know about 'em.

As summer temperatures in Texas rise, reptiles like snakes become very common on park trails, near water, and even in your backyard garden. If you didn't see any on your last Hill Country hike, they were probably playing extreme hide and seek.

Here are 14 local Hill Country snakes that you should be on a first name basis with!

Western Rat Snake | Bullsnake Prairie Kingsnake | Coachwhip | Racer | Brown Snake | Earth Snake | Garter & Ribbon Snakes | Watersnake | Western Diamondback Rattlesnake | Copperhead | Cottonmouth | Texas Coral Snakes

Local Non-Venomous Snakes

These harmless, non-venomous snakes tend to our gardens and keep us safe from diseases by gobbling up insects and rodents.

Friendly Mousers & Champion Rodent Guards

#1 Western Rat Snake

Ratsnake - Photo by Robert Nunnally | Flickr

Photo by Robert Nunnally

Identifiers: 

  • This is Austin's only large climbing snake, reaching up to 3-4 feet long
  • Color pattern varies from brown blotches on a gray background, to black blotches on a red, orange, yellow, or even white background
  • Often miss-identified as a rattlesnake or chicken snake

Locations: Dwells and climbs anywhere they can find a good snack

Threat Level: 1/5

The Texas Rat Snake isn't after your pooch or kitty - only the rodents outside of your home!

 

#2 Bullsnake

Texas Bullsnake
Photo by Dallas Krentzel

Identifiers: 

  • This is now the largest species of snake native to Texas. Record is 9ft, 3 inches!
  • Color pattern of brown, almost square, blotches on a background of light brown to almost yellow
  • Capable of hissing very loudly

Locations: Found in pastures and fields

Threat Level: 2/5

They may be big - but Bullsnakes are just passing through. Leave them be or call Austin Reptile Service for removal. 

 

#3 Prairie Kingsnake

Photo by Peter Paplanus
Photo by Peter Paplanus

Another common Central Texas King Snake is the Speckled King Snake and Integrated King Snake. Check these two other serpents out on Austin Reptile Service.

Identifiers: 

  • Reaches up to 2 - 3 feet
  • Dark brown almost oval-shaped blotches or stripes on a gray background
  • Small head in comparison to body

Locations: Found in open woods and prairies

Threat Level: 2/5

These smelly snakes don't like confrontation and will steer clear of you and your pets. They are known to shake their tail and/or musk you for getting too close.

 

#4 Coachwhip

Coachwhip - Photo by Peter & Michelle S
Photo by Peter & Michelle S

Identifiers:

  • Reaches up to 4 - 6 feet in length
  • Range in color from solid brown or solid tan to wide bands
  • Curious snakes that hold their head high up above tall grass for observation

Locations: Found in open woods and prairies - but mostly looking for tasty mice.

Threat Level: 1/5

Coachwhips want nothing to do with you and your pets. Sometimes they even 'play dead' to avoid humans!

 

#5 Racer

Racer - Photo by Josh Henderson
Photo by Josh Henderson

Identifiers:

  • Reaches up to 3-4 feet in length
  • Olive to light green on top with a yellow belly
  • Tend to hold their head high up above tall grass for observation

Locations: Found in open woods and prairies - but mostly looking for mice.

Threat Level: 1/5

Racers are fast, speedy little noodles and they aren't in the mood to chat!

Garden Protectors & Free Bug Zappers

#6 Brown Snake

Photo by Heather Spaulding | Flickr

Photo by Heather Spaulding

Identifiers:

  • Reaches up to a foot long
  • Reddish brown-colored bodies w/ dark brown spots around the eyes

Locations: Found in damp flowerbeds, gardens, and woodlands

Threat Level: 1/5 for humans and pets but 5/5 if you are an earthworm. 

Harmless - nothing to worry about!

 

#7 Earth Snake

Earth Snake - Photo by Stephen Horvath | Flickr

Photo by Stephen Horvath

Identifiers:

  • Small, usually reaching up to a foot in length
  • Brown in color - go figure!

Locations: Camps out in damp flowerbeds, gardens, and woodlands 

Threat Level: 1/5

Just passing through your garden to make sure everything is in tip-top shape.

 

#8-9 Garter & Ribbon Snakes

Ribbon Snake - Photo by Melissa McMasters | Flickr

Photo by Melissa McMasters

Identifiers:

  • Both of these snakes can reach up to 3 - 4 feet in length
  • Stripes, sometimes brightly colored, down the back

Locations: Found around permanent bodies of water

Threat Level: 1/5

Very common speedsters! Leave them be while they slither to catch frogs and spiders.

 

#10 Watersnake

Watersnake - Photo by JD Lamb | Flickr

Photo by JD Lamb

Identifiers:

  • Often confused with Cottonmouths - and killed for it!
  • Reaches up to 4 - 6 feet
  • Greenish body w/ a dark diamond pattern on its back, dark green squares on its side and a yellow belly and chin

Locations: Found near and in waterways

Threat Level: 2/5

Renowned insect repellers and warriors. Water Snakes are also excellent fishermen and frog catchers. They aren't after you or Fido - just let them swim on their way.

 

Local Venomous Snakes

First things first, let's debunk an old wives tale: juvenile snake venom is not more concentrated than adult snake venom. Neither--young or old--is more dangerous than the other. Both are not to be messed with.

Our Texas Hill Country venomous snakes are true warriors for our environment. Hunting rodents and small animals that can carry diseases make them an essential part of the ecosystem.

Rodent Population Control Experts

#11 Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake - TPWD

Identifiers:

  • Averages 4 feet in length, but can reach 7 feet
  • Light brown w/ dark diamond-shaped markings along the middle of the back & alternating black and white rings on the tail
  • Famous rattle on the end of tail

Locations: Found just about anywhere in Texas - dry or damp

Threat Level: 5/5

Steer clear! These rattlesnakes don't want you or your pets but don't provoke them. Do not call pest control. If you need this snake removed, call Austin Reptile Service. 

 

#12 Copperhead

Copperhead Snake

Identifiers:

  • Reaches up to 2 1/2 feet in length
  • Chestnut or reddish-brown cross-banded
  • Great hide and sneak player - check those leaves before you step!

Locations: Loves rocky, damp, wooded, low lying areas

Threat Level: 4/5

Steer clear! Copperheads can pack a punch in their bite but aren't interested in your fluffy friends. Do not call pest control. If you need this snake removed, call Austin Reptile Service. 

 

#13 Cottonmouth (Water Moccasins)

Cottonmouth Snake

 Identifiers:

  • Very rare in Austin!
  • Often confused with the Water Snake
  • Reaches up to 3 1/2 feet
  • Usually olive-brown or almost solid black w/ dark bands & white tissue inside its mouth

Locations: Found in swamps and sluggish waterways - big water junky

Threat Level: 5/5

They aren't after you or your fluffy friends and aren't aggressive. They just want the rodents and fish! Do not call pest control. If you need this snake removed, call Austin Reptile Service. 

 

#14 Texas Coral Snakes

Texas Coral Snake - Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Identifiers:

  • "Red & yellow, kill a fella - Red & Black, friend of Jack!" 
  • Reaches up to 2 1/2 feet

Locations: Found in coastal, wooded, or canyon areas

Threat Level: 4/5

Zero deaths on record for Texas Coral Snakes. These snakes are not aggressive and they aren't after you or your pets. Don't engage or disturb! Do not call pest control. If you need this snake removed, call Austin Reptile Service. 


Expert Advice 

We asked snake expert, Gary Geiler (known as Serpentarian on Reddit) on the importance of Hill Country snakes.

"Every single species of snake is important to the environment. They have a greater purpose than just being beneficial to humans - they serve as food for other animals and keep populations of the animals they prey upon down. I am seeing more and more of this attitude lately where people enjoy and appreciate wildlife for what it is and not just what they get out of it."

What do I do if I see a snake?

Relax, back away slowly, and most importantly, whatever you do, do not call Pest Control.

Pro tip: Get out the water hose and gently spray the offending noodle until he starts to move on on his own - effectively reminding them that this location is undesirable.

Won't they bite me?!

In Serpentarian's words... "The truth is: trying to kill the snake is the number one way to get bitten by one. So all those granddads in the backyard who get the shovel out, actually raise the numbers of bites significantly."

If you are bitten, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says stay calm and walk around if you can! Clean bite site with soap and water and remove tight fitting clothing or jewelry in case swelling should occur. 

Even if you haven't ID'd the species, call 9-1-1 and immediately transport to nearest medical facility for anti-venom treatment. Read more here!

How do I ID a snake?

Snap a picture (safely) and post to Reddit at r/whatsthissnake. This Reddit group has professional herpetologists that can recognize any snake in the world.

If you would like a snake relocated, please contact Austin Reptile Service. They also have a great snake ID page that can be filtered even by county.  

 

For more photos and information, visit our partners and sources: 

Snake Wildlife Expert:

Gary Geiler (Serpentarian)

Gary began breeding endangered snakes in the early 2000s, then went on to work as a zookeeper, lecturer and snake removal specialist in New Mexico. He spends his vacations finding snakes in other countries, like vipers in the mountains above Rome and Cobras in the deserts near Marrakech.

Gary is a moderator on r/whatsthissnake. You can follow his Reddit channel here.

Other Sources

Visit AustinCity of AustinTexas Parks and Wildlife DepartmentAustin Reptile ServiceAustin Animal RescueMoonshine Wildlife Rehabilitation

 

Looking for more Texas Wildlife? See who is a friend or foe of your pet!

Tomlinson's is your go-to pet supply store for natural, healthy pet products in Austin and the Central Texas region. Let us help prepare you and your pet for your outdoor adventures online or in-store.

Visit our shop full of products sold through team members trained in animal nutrition. Pass by our stores with your adorable pet for some treat samples and loving ear rubs.

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