Venomous Snakes in Maine: Myth or Reality?

It’s no secret that venomous snakes can be found in many parts of the United States, but what may come as a surprise to some is that none of these dangerous reptiles are present in Maine.

There are no venomous snakes in Maine. Maine is one of three US states that doesn’t have venomous snakes. However, Maine is home to 9 non-venomous species. The Garter snake is the most common one of these.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common snake species found in Maine and how to identify them. We’ll also provide information on what you should do if you encounter one of these snakes in the wild.

Why Are There No Venomous Snakes in Maine?

It’s generally accepted that Maine is simply too far north for venomous snakes to survive. The cold climate of the state is not conducive to these cold-blooded animals, so they stay away from the frigid temperatures and snow.

In addition, this area has been settled by humans for hundreds of years, making it difficult for snakes to migrate or spread their populations. The lack of suitable habitat has further limited the number of snake species that can survive in the area, with only non-venomous species like garter snakes and northern water snakes settling into the region.

At some point, the venomous Timber Rattlesnake lived in Maine, but at some point it was driven out or eliminated. There are only two other states without venomous snakes in the US: Hawaii and Alaska. Like Maine, these states are too cold for most snakes.

Which Non-Venomous Snakes Can You Find in Maine?

Maine is home to a variety of non-venomous snakes, all of which can be identified by their distinct markings and behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common species found in this state.

1. Garter Snake

This is the most commonly seen snake in Maine, and it’s easy to recognize by its characteristic stripe pattern. Garter snakes are relatively small, measuring between 18-36 inches (1.5-3 feet) long. They come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, gray, and olive. They’re most often found near water sources and are harmless to humans.

2. Northern Water Snake

Northern water snakes are another common species found in Maine. They typically grow to be larger than garter snakes, reaching up to four feet long, with a black or brown body marked by irregular blotches. 

These aquatic snake breeds prefer habitats near rivers, streams, and lakes. They can be defensive when approached and will sometimes mimic the appearance of a venomous snake.

3. Milk Snake

The milk snake is a slender species with bright patterning on its body. They are usually red, orange, and yellow, with black bands or spots along the sides. Milk snakes typically reach lengths between 2 and 4 feet long (61 – 122 cm) and can be found in wooded areas, farmlands, and other open landscapes. They are non-venomous and not dangerous to humans.

4. Smooth Green Snake

The smooth green snake is a smaller species, usually growing to be no more than 2 feet long (61 cm). These snakes are olive-green and have narrow heads and round eyes. They can be found in grassy areas, marshes, and other moist habitats. Interestingly, they are also good climbers and can often be found in trees.

5. Northern Water Snake

The northern water snake is a stout species with a dark brown body and cream-colored markings. They can reach lengths of up to 4 feet (122 cm), though the average size is usually much smaller. They can be found near rivers and ponds, as well as in wetlands and other areas where there’s plenty of water.

6. Ribbon Snake

The ribbon snake is a colorful species with wavy stripes running the length of its body. It is usually black, green, yellow, or gray and can reach up to 3 feet long (91 cm). Ribbon snakes usually inhabit open fields, wetlands, and other areas near water sources. Furthermore, they are excellent swimmers and will usually be seen in large rivers or ponds.

7. Northern Black Racer Snake

The northern black racer is a non-venomous species that looks similar to its venomous counterpart, the western rattlesnake. It has a long, slender body that is typically black or gray. Northern black racers can grow up to five feet long and are usually active during the day.

8. Red-Bellied Snake

The red-bellied snake is another of Maine’s non-venomous species. It’s relatively small, measuring between ten and sixteen inches long, with a reddish stripe down its back. Red-bellied snakes are usually found in wetland areas and can be active day or night. They can be identified by their small size, rounded snout, and bright red markings.

9. Brown Snake

The brown snake is a small, short species, usually growing to be no more than ten inches long. Its body is brown or olive-colored and marked with dark spots or stripes. Brown snakes are usually found in yards, gardens, and farms, where they feed on insects and other invertebrates. They are harmless to humans, but they’re often mistaken for their more venomous cousins.

What Should I Do if I Encounter a Snake in Maine?

Maine is home to many non-venomous snake species, but it’s always best to be vigilant when out in nature. If you come across a snake, stay calm and give it plenty of space. Never attempt to touch or handle the animal. Move slowly and watch where the snake goes.

You can rest assured that snakes in Maine aren’t dangerous to you. The worst that could happen is getting bitten. Even though you won’t be poisoned by snake bites in Maine, you should still disinfect the wound and call a doctor.

If you’re concerned that the snake may be venomous, the best thing to do is leave the area. Many trained professionals can assist with identifying and handling snakes, so it’s best to contact a local animal control agency or wildlife rehabilitation center for assistance.

All snakes play an important role in our ecosystems and should be treated with respect.

The Importance of Snakes in the Ecosystem

Snakes play a vital role in keeping the balance of nature by controlling populations of small mammals, birds, rodents, and insects. They also help to disperse nutrients throughout the environment as they prey on animals that would otherwise compete for resources.

Snakes are also an important food source for other animals in the wild. Predators such as hawks, owls, and foxes rely on snakes to provide them with sustenance.

In addition, snakes help keep ecosystems healthy by eliminating sick or diseased animals that could spread disease to other wildlife populations. By controlling these populations, snakes help to maintain the delicate balance of nature.

Final Thoughts

Maine is home to a variety of different snake species, from small brown snakes to large black racers. Each of these species plays a key role in our environment and should be respected.

By understanding their behavior and needs, we can learn to peacefully coexist with snakes and appreciate them for the valuable members of the ecosystem they are. With this knowledge, we can help to ensure a safe and healthy environment for both people and wildlife alike.

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