Common Snakes of Middle Tennessee

By Skip Davis
Black kingsnakes are found throughout Central Tennessee.

Central Tennessee features the state's capital, Nashville, and home to habitats for the state's common snake species. Central Tennessee's snakes are found in wetlands, forest and grassland habitats. Although snakes tend to shy away from humans, urbanization and agricultural development has caused frequent contact between humans and snakes. Venomous and non-venomous snakes in Tennessee provide warnings to humans to leave them alone, including shaking their tails.



Tennessee has three venomous snake species in central Tennessee: the northern copperhead, timber rattlesnake and western pigmy rattlesnake. All three of these snake species are found in the Tennessee River Valley region of Tennessee; the Tennessee River Valley is the only region where western pigmies live. Copperheads are the least venomous of the three species, but most cases of venomous snake bites in Tennessee are from copperheads. Timber and western pigmy rattlesnakes are pit vipers – meaning they have pits between their eyes – and rattles at the end of the tails.

Earth Snakes

Earth Snake

In Tennessee, two earth snake species are found in the middle of the state, rough earth snake and western smooth earth snake. The major difference between these two snake species is their scales; rough earth snakes have keeled – or ridged – scales, while western smooth earth snakes features smooth scales. Earth snakes are among the smallest snake species in Tennessee; as adults, these reptiles reach10 to 15 inches long. These two snakes spend much of their time underneath the ground and tree bases; this is why they are termed “earth” snakes.

Rat Snakes

Rat Snake

Two rat snake species, under the Elaphe genus, are found throughout the Central region of Tennessee, the gray rat snake and red corn snake. As their names indicate, the gray rat snake has gray skin with brown blotches and while the red corn snake has a red base of scales with copper ring patterns. Rat snakes may be identified by their round eye pupils and lack of facial pits. These two snakes have rats and other small rodents as their main food item. Tennessee's rat snakes live in a variety of environments, which includes river beds, grasslands, forests and mountainous regions. Gray rat and red corn snakes are also commonly found near urban homes.

Southeastern Crowned Snake

The southeastern crowned snake, or Tantilla coronata, is found in regions throughout the southeastern United States, including central Tennessee. This snake receives its name from the black spots on its head; the remainder of the snake's body is a tan color. As adults, southeastern crowned snakes may grow up to 1 foot. Woodlands and hilly grasslands are the primary habitats of the southeastern crowned snake.

Common Gartersnake

Common Gartersnake

One of the most common snake species in Central Tennessee – and the United States – is the common gartersnake, or Thamnophis sirtalis. Common gartersnakes are common since they dwell in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands and forests; this snake species is also frequently found in human gardens. These snakes are also known for living and hibernating in large groups.

About the Author

Skip Davis has been writing professionally since 2005. His work has appeared in "Southern Literary Magazine," on various websites and in graphic panels at the Jackson Zoological Park in Jackson, Miss. Currently living in Southern California, Davis received his Bachelor of Arts in theater at Belhaven College.