Maine probably isn't the place a dedicated herpetologist would like to spend much time. There are only nine species and two sub-species of snakes in the Pine Tree State, none of them venomous and only one considered endangered. The Maine Herpetological Society lists three other species as having "special concern" status, with dwindling numbers in the state.
Northern Black Racer
Maine's lone endangered snake, the black racer or coluber constrictor, matures at up to 6 feet long. Also known as the eastern racer, this big snake is found in greater numbers elsewhere in the country. The black racer, named for its speed and shiny, solid black scales, has a white throat and chin. Young snakes are gray and darken as they age. The black racers' numbers dwindled in Maine as its preferred forest habitat was developed for agriculture.
Special Concern Species
Snakes holding special concern status include the eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus), the northern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis) and the northern brown snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi). The ribbon snakes are both slender animals, with three ribbon-like yellow stripes running down their brownish-gray bodies. The eastern ribbon snake often has a green or yellow underbelly, while the northern ribbon snake does not. The small northern brown snake ranges in color from brown to nearly black. While these snakes are growing scarce in Maine, their populations are secure in other areas of New England.
Two types of garter snakes are found in Maine. The eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) has a brown or green body with a yellow-striped pattern. It matures up to 4 feet long. The eastern garter snake is the most common type of snake in the state, with a statewide habitat. The maritime garter snake, named for its love of water, swims in either fresh or salt water. Maritime snakes are dark brown or sometimes black, maturing about 2 feet long.
Other Snake Species
The other five species completing the Maine snake roster consist of the eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum), the northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon), the northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwards), the northern redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata) and the smooth green snake (Liochlorophis vernalis).
The eastern milk snake grows up to 36 inches long. Its grayish body boasts red blotches, with a Y-shaped blotch on the head. It resembles the timber rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in neighboring Massachusetts. The large, dark northern water snake matures between 2 and 4.5 feet long. The northern ringneck snake, a small, dark snake with a yellow neck ring, prefers mountainous areas. Another small snake, the northern redbelly, has a gray or brown body and the namesake red belly. The smooth green snake, small and bright green, is also known as the grass snake. Grasses are the primary habitat, where this snake's coloration blends right in.
- Maine Herpetological Society: Snakes
- Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: Black Racer
- Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: Snakes of Maine
- Nova Scotia Museum: Maritime Garter Snake
- New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game: Northern Red-bellied Snake
- New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game: Northern Brown Snake
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.