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White-bellied Black Snake: How to Identify This Snake

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Identifying snakes is not always easy, especially when they have very basic colors. In spring and summer, the likelihood of encountering snakes increases, and it's important to know which ones are dangerous! Today, we'll take a look at the most common black and white-bellied snakes in the United States. By the end, you should be able to identify almost any black snake with a white belly and tell if it's safe or not!

Where does the white-bellied black snake live?

There are more than 3,000 species of snakes in the world, and they come in a variety of colors and patterns. Covering every black snake with a white belly is a daunting task, so we've narrowed down the list to snakes that can be found in the United States today.

Although most of these snakes are found in the eastern United States, subspecies of some of these snakes can be found throughout most of the country. For each snake, we'll cover the following to help you identify it:

  • Basic description
  • their extent and distribution
  • their preferred habitat

Armed with this information, you should be able to identify any black-bellied snakes you come across this year! let's start.

White-bellied non-venomous black snake

Here is our list of black-bellied and white non-venomous snakes. If you see one of these snakes, you don't have to worry about your safety. Also, you don't have to worry about killing these snakes out of fear, as this may actually damage the ecological niche they inhabit.

black rat snake

white belly black snake
The black rat snake is a common snake with a shiny black body and white underbelly.

© samray/Shutterstock.com

Black rat snakes go by many names, including black cockatrice, black coluber, black pilot and eastern black rat snake. They are one of the most common snake species in the eastern United States, and most people encounter them at least once in their lives.

Physical Description: Black rat snakes will vary in color depending on where they are found. When people refer to "black rat snakes," they're usually referring to a specific variety of eastern rat snake that happens to be all black. This particular variety can grow up to 6 feet long and has a shiny black body with a white or cream belly. Their bellies occasionally have black and white checks.

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In other variants, these snakes may be striped and gray, black or even orange (in Florida).

Distribution: Eastern rat snakes can be found from Texas to Florida, all the way to the Great Lakes region and New England. However, the color variation range of the black rat snake is more northerly and can be found in the same range north of Florida and Louisiana.

Preferred Habitat: Black rat snakes aren't picky when it comes to habitat. They can be found in yards, suburbs, fields, pine forests and just about anywhere else. They are very common.

black racer

white belly black snake
The black race snake is another common black body snake. It usually has a white chin and a lighter belly.

©Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

The black race snake is another common snake in the eastern United States, with several recognized subspecies in its range. However, Southern black racers most likely fit the black-and-white description.

Physical Description: The Southern Black Runner is a slender snake known for its incredible speed (hence the name). They are flat and black and can grow up to 6 feet in length, but are much smaller in girth than rat snakes. They can be gray or black in color, with white or cream throats. Their bellies are usually lighter in color than their backs.

Distribution: The black racer is found throughout the eastern United States. Southern black racers lived in a smaller part of the range, with access to Kentucky, Tennessee in the southeast and Arkansas in the west.

Preferred Habitat: These snakes are all-rounders and can be found in forests, swamps and even the Florida Everglades. You may come across them in yards, parks, and gardens, and often climb into shrubs or trees.

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Eastern King Snake

white belly black snake
Eastern king snakes come in many varieties, most of which are black and white.

© Mike Wilhelm/Shutterstock.com

Eastern kingsnakes are less common than black snakes and rat snakes, but are widespread throughout much of the eastern United States. Another variety known as the California kingsnake lives on the West Coast and is a bit more colored than its East Coast relatives. There are several varieties in the eastern kingsnake family, including the black kingsnake and the spotted kingsnake.

Physical Description: The eastern kingsnake is a thicker black snake with white stripes from head to tail. The thickness of the bands reflected their environment, with wider bands in coastal populations and thicker bands in mountainous populations. Black kingsnakes are almost completely black and have thin, spidery bands that are not nearly as pronounced, while spotted kingsnakes have spots. All eastern kingsnakes are black and white with a white belly, while western kingsnakes come in red, brown or cream.

Distribution: The eastern kingsnake is found throughout the eastern United States, as far north as New Jersey.

Preferred Habitat: Preferred habitats for the eastern kingsnake include forests, swamps, tidal areas, etc. However, they are almost always found near water and are hidden under objects most of the time.

White-bellied black snake

There are not many venomous white-bellied black snakes in the United States. In fact, there really is only one species of snake that fits the description. It's important to remember that although snakes can be dangerous, they will openly attack humans unless provoked or invaded. Killing a snake should always be a last resort, not simply done on principle.

cotton mouth

white belly black snake
Cottonmouths are venomous snakes with a black, gray or brown body and a lighter belly.

©Marcum Havens/Shutterstock.com

The cottonmouth snake is a common aquatic snake found throughout most of the eastern United States. There are several cottonmouth subspecies within the range, including western cottonmouth, Florida cottonmouth, and eastern cottonmouth. Common names for the cottonmouth deer include water moccasin, swamp moccasin, black moccasin, and gaper. These snakes get their name from their white mouths, which they open in defense when a predator gets too close.

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Physical Description: The cottonmouth is a thick, broad snake that can grow to about 4 feet long. They come in black, gray, and olive, and the cross straps look washed or not at all. Their scales are keeled and there is a cat-like slit for the eye. As a type of viper, these snakes have a distinct heat-sensing pit on each side between the snout and eyes.

Distribution: The cottonbill can be found in the southeastern United States, from central Texas to Florida and as far north as Illinois and Virginia.

Preferred Habitat: The cottonmouth is an aquatic snake that is almost always found near water. They love marshes, swamps, floodplains, and wetlands of all types.

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Closeup of a Western Rat Snake
Many western rat snakes have white jaws.

© Rusty Dodson/Shutterstock.com

about the author

Colby Maxwell

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he's not distracted by the backyard bird feeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him what he's learned recently. There's a whole world to learn, and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much of it as he can!

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