There are 17 species of snake in New York. And they are all integral parts of their ecosystems. As prey for foxes and hawks and predators for rodents of all sorts, they are an irreplaceable link in New York food chains.
The two most common snakes are garter snakes and water snakes. Garter snakes are very adaptable; they can live comfortably around humans, in marshland, in fields, and in woodlands. Their characteristic feature is three yellow stripes down their backs and they don’t usually get to be more than two feet long. They are non-venomous.
Water snakes can grow up to 42 inches in length and are non-venomous. They are often mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth, which are not found in our state borders. They can be quite aggressive and are found near wetlands and bodies of water.
Milk snakes, which are often found in barns and are tan with reddish splotches, and black rat snakes, which are usually found near rocky cliffs and completely black, are less common and non-venomous. The black rat snake is the largest snake in the state by far, maxing out at a whopping eight feet.
We only have three venomous species of snake in New York and all three are fairly rare. The timber rattlesnake and massasauga both have rattles at the end of their tails. Both are considered “chunky” snakes, though the timber rattler can get up to six feet in length, while the massasauga can’t exceed three feet. Copperheads can be distinguished by their copper-red faces and distinct bands that run the full length of their bodies.
It is always a good idea to be aware of the snake types in your region. However, if you believe that you may have a snake problem in your residence, call Westchester Wildlife for a consultation.