Snakes in Upstate South Carolina

Snakes get people's attention. Other kinds of wildlife can show up at the family picnic, or in the backyard garden, and not cause much notice. But let the kids come in the house with a shed skin they found in a bush, or report that "something just wiggled away in the grass", and everyone present will likely get slightly wide-eyed and exclaim – "A SNAKE!"   

Juvenile Black Rat Snake - Photo by Ed PivorunSurely part of our overt response to snakes is the fact that some species are venomous. But likely that’s not all. It may also be related to their legless condition, to the fact that they typically make no noise announcing their arrival on the scene, and to their manner of appearing or disappearing suddenly and unexpectedly, that contributes to their occasionally giving people the shivers.  

Whatever the reason, they do “get our attention”; and even though leery of them, people find them interesting. Because of that fact, the Clemson office of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) routinely responds to many public questions about snakes and often uses non-venomous snakes as an education tool in promoting conservation of all our natural resources. No matter who the audience is; a civic group, neighborhood organization, or a classroom full of young people, their attention can more readily be gotten if the speaker begins the presentation with a beautiful 3 ft king snake in their hands. With that as a beginning, it is easy to transition the presentation into important topics about habitat conservation, wildlife biology and management, or wetland protection.

This Web site provides some information about the snakes that occur in upstate South Carolina. However, it is not a typical identification guide or field guide. Good field guides with illustrations exist and some are cited below. You may wish to acquire one or more of these for use in conjunction with this write-up, or as a source of additional information. However, through its descriptions, and through referenced publications, we hope this Web site will increase interest in snakes, assist you in identifying them, and provide a source of some general ecological and behavioral information. And, if you can not identify a snake, this Web site provides a process in which you can send an electronic photo to the Clemson DNR office where we will try to identify it for you.

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