What's this snake on our deck?
March 16, 2013 4:16 PM   Subscribe

We were cleaning up out back for a cookout, and I spotted this little guy. Does anyone know what kind of snake this is? My guess was that it was not poisonous based on the head shape, but I don't know if that rule applies to baby snakes as well. More inside.

We live in Memphis, and have a raised deck, there is an area underneath it that we cannot access. Considering that this is clearly a baby snake what are the chances that there are more around? Not to mention the momma snake? I know nothing about their reproduction habits, and I want to know if we should be taking further action. We have 3 dogs, one of which is a puppy and I am concerned about them more than I am us though. Any advice?
posted by Quincy to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The two rows of spots make me think it's a Northern Brown Snake.
posted by xingcat at 4:18 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are 32 snake species in TN and I can't identify it based on the pic. But it is definitely not a venomous snake (in TN you have 4 venomous snakes: Timber Rattlesnake, Pygmy Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Cottonmouth). I have encountered baby pit vipers. They have large triangular shaped heads--unusually large compared to the body size. So your dogs don't have anything to worry about-- from the variety of snake in the pic anyway. Copperheads account for most venomous snake bites in TN.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:35 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

It most strongly resembles a garter snake, a common, non-venomous family of snakes that are found throughout the US. Patterns can vary greatly, varying from dark with light stripes to a checkered pattern like the one you found. Here is a link to more information and some pictures of the color variation within Tennessee.
posted by Gneisskate at 4:46 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree, that's a garter snake. Totally harmless.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:47 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, there are probably more around, but they are harmless. It is currently the season for them to emerge from hibernation, mate, and have babies (live, not eggs!). The babies are only a few inches long, so it is likely yours is an adult. I can't properly tell without scale, though.:)
posted by Gneisskate at 4:51 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with xingcat. It looks more like a northern brown snake than a garter snake to me. If that's what it is, it's an adult, not a baby. They don't get very big. If you do an image search for "northern brown snake" you'll see pictures of people holding them, showing the adult size.
posted by Redstart at 7:38 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The head shape seems wrong for a garter snake, so I'm another voice for the n. brown snake.
posted by anadem at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2013

That's absolutely, definitely, unquestionably a brown snake (Storeria dekayi). I'm quite certain of that ID. (As a general rule, I can identify most North American snakes if there's a clear picture.)

They don't get much longer than about a foot, and babies are only a couple of inches long, so you have an adult there; I agree with Gneisskate and Redstart.

They eat earthworms and slugs. Absolutely harmless. Almost never bite people. A relative of the garter snake though not a garter snake itself.

Note that the head shape is not a reliable indicator of whether a snake is venomous. Boas and pythons, for example, have triangular heads but no venom; elapid snakes (including cobras, coral snakes, mambas, kraits, and ALL THE FUN SNAKES IN AUSTRALIA) do not. And even rat snakes and water snakes can kind of sort of have triangular-looking heads if you look at them the right way and you're not sure what to look for.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:08 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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