A Guide to WNC Poisonous Snakes

According to the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences there are 57 species of snakes that inhabit the state, but there are only  six poisonous snake species.

Of these six, four are central to the south eastern region of the states, and only two are found throughout the rest of the state, including Western North Carolina.

The good news is that the next time you see a snake, you shouldn’t panic! The odds are in your favor that the snake is a harmless breed.

Identifying Species

While it’s unlikely that the snake in your garden is in fact poisonous, it’s important to be aware of the characteristics of the two venomous species. This information can help keep you safe, and to properly treat you or a loved one in the event of a poisonous snake bite.

Both the Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnakes are members of the pit  viper family, which are characterized by having a heat sensitive pit located between the eye and nostril; as well as movable fangs in the front of the upper jaws.


Copperheads have large, moderately stout-bodies with brown or chestnut hourglass-shaped markings on a brown, tan, or pinkish background. The belly is light brown, yellowish, or pinkish and may be stippled or mottled with gray or black. The top of the head has large symmetrical plates.

They usually measure 24-46 inches. There are two species of copperheads, a northern which frequents WNC and the Peidmont, as well as a southern species which is found on the coast.

Timber Rattlesnake

 Timber Rattlesnakes are a large, heavy-bodied, pinkish to blackish rattlesnake with dark, light-centered blotches and crossbands. The tail of the adult is black. The belly is yellowish, pinkish, or cream with gray or black stippling. There is a prominent rattle or enlarged “button” on the tip of the tail.  They total lengths of 36–68 inches.  Timber Rattlesnakes in the Coastal Plain and most of the Piedmont generally are larger and more vividly pat­terned than those from the Mountains.

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