South Dakota Reptiles

Snakes

Eastern Yellow-bellied RacerPhoto by: David Sledge

Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer

(Coluber constrictor flaviventris)
Called "racers" due to their active, quick movements; these non-venomous, slender gray-green to bluish-green snakes range in size from 30 to 50 inches in length. They will typically slither to the safety of thick grass or brush when encountered, but if cornered or grasped, they will bite in defense. They can be found in central and western SD (west of the Missouri River).
Prairie Ringneck SnakePhoto by: Dawson

Prairie Ringneck Snake

(Diadophis punctatus arnyi)
Found in the extreme southeast corner of SD, this harmless snake is named for the yellow band that encircles its neck. The ringneck snake is typically slate gray, black or brown with smooth scales, giving it a satin-like appearance. They prefer moist woodlands as their habitat.
Western Fox Snake

Western Fox Snake

(Elaphe v. vulpine)
Measuring 36 to 56 inches in length, this is one of South Dakota's larger non-venomous species of snake and can be found in the extreme southeast corner of SD. The head of a Fox Snake is usually unmarked except for a small design on top and may be light brown with yellow, orange, or reddish highlights.
Western Hognose Snake

Western Hognose Snake

(Heterodon nasicus)
Considered to be a rear-fanged venomous snake, they are not considered to pose any danger to humans. The Western Hognose Snake has a funny (upturned) nose or snout that they use for digging. These snakes are found throughout SD and average between 18-30 inches long. Their bodies are chunky, and much heavier than most other snakes of comparable length.
Eastern Hognose SnakePhoto by: Patrick Coin

Eastern Hognose Snake

(Heterodon platirhinos)
The Eastern Hognose Snake is considered to be rear-fanged, but any venom they excrete is not considered dangerous to humans and they are not inclined to bite. This medium to large snake ranges in size from 24 to 46 inches long with a very stout body. In SD, they can be found in only a very tiny range in extreme southeast corner of SD.
Pale Milk Snake

Pale Milk Snake

(Lampropeltis triangulum multistriata)
This medium sized, non-venomous snake is often confused with the deadly Coral Snake due to its coloration - light gray or brown ground color and bright to rusty red body blotches. They can be found in central and western SD and through southeast SD (west of the Missouri River).
Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

(Nerodia sipedon)
Often mistaken for Cottonmouths or Copperheads, Northern Water Snakes are non-venomous. They can grow over 4 feet long and are brown, gray, reddish, or brownish-black with dark crossbands on their necks and dark blotches on the rest of their bodies. They are almost nonexistent in SD, but have been spotted in a very tiny range in SE SD.
Smooth Green Snake

Smooth Green Snake

(Opheodrys vernalis)
Smooth Green Snakes are non-venomous, they rarely bite when handled and when they do, rarely break the skin. They are 12-22 inches in length, are a bright, brilliant green, and have smooth scales. They prefer areas with thick green vegetation. They have small, separate ranges in the western Black Hills, extreme southeast SD, and extreme northeast SD.
Northern Redbelly SnakePhoto by: Chris Falt

Northern Redbelly Snake

(Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata)
Northern Redbelly Snakes are non-venomous. They are small, measuring 7-10 inches long and are easily identified by their red or orange belly. They live in a variety of habitats: boreal forests, sphagnum bogs, and northern and southern hardwood forests and adjacent fields. They can be found in extreme eastern SD.
Black Hills Redbelly Snake

Black Hills Redbelly Snake

(Storeris occipitomaculata pahasapae)
Black Hills Redbelly Snakes are a subspecies of the Northern Redbelly Snake, and are also non-venomous. Most Black Hills records of these snakes are from the northern hills or in the granitic/schist formations such as the Harney Peak area. They can be found in the extreme western Black Hills, but also integrate with the Northern Redbelly in their range on the eastern side of the state.
Wandering Garter SnakePhoto by: Doug Backlund

Wandering Garter Snake

(Thamnophis elegans vagrans)
This non-venomous snake is a medium-sized with a robust body and long tail. The head of the Wandering Garter Snake is large and distinct from its neck. The snake’s upper lip, chin and throat are white or yellow and its eyes are moderately large with a round pupil. They have 2 ranges in SD - one on the northwest edge of the state and one in the western Black Hills.
Western Plains Garter Snake

Western Plains Garter Snake

(Thamnophis radix haydenii)
The Plains Garter Snake is non-venomous and can be found throughout SD. They are considered to be more docile than other garter snakes. The ground color is light brown to black with two alternating rows of black spots. Some have an olive green surface color in which the spots stand out especially well.
Red-sided Garter Snake

Red-sided Garter Snake

(Thamnophis sirtalis pareitalis)
The Red-sided Garter Snake is non-venomous, can be found throughout SD, and is the most common snake in North America. The habitat of Garter Snakes range from forests, fields and prairies to streams, wetlands, meadows, marshes and ponds, and they are often found near water.
Lined SnakePhoto by: Scott Albert

Lined Snake

(Tropidoclonion lineatum)
This non-venomous snake resembles a small, colorless garter snake. They normally will not bite if handled gently. Their usual habitat is open grassland areas where surface cover is present, but they may also be found in semi-suburban environments, such as abandoned lots, cemeteries. They can be found in extreme southeast SD.
Bull Snake

Bull Snake

(Pituophis catenifer sayi)
The largest snake in South Dakota, the non-venomous Bull Snake is heavy-bodied and ranges in length from 37 to 72 inches. Bullsnakes vary in temperament, some are docile while others react very defensively toward anyone who attempts to handle them, but despite their menacing attitude, they will not strike unless severely provoked. They can be found throughout SD, except for the northeast corner of the state.
Prairie Rattlesnake

Prairie Rattlesnake

(Crotalus viridis)
Prairie Rattlesnakes are large, venomous snakes found in central and western SD. They are heavy bodied and measure from 35 to 45 inches in length. These Rattlesnakes have a diamond shaped head which is set off from the relatively thin neck. The tail is ringed with a tan rattle at the end, distinguishing this snake from all others in its South Dakota range.