Venomous snakes are the stars of the typical reptile lesson, but there are three nonvenomous snakes that should be on your radar:
Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoleta)
Interesting defensive behavior: the black rat snake will vibrate its tail when threatened.
Reaching lengths up to six feet, this terrestrial snake is black and shiny with a white chin and throat. The underside of the body is cream-colored with darker, mottled yellow or brown patterns towards the hind portion.
Found statewide in forests and woodlands, the black rat snake is skilled at climbing throughout its habitat and is active from March to November. It breeds in April to May and lays from five to 20 eggs that hatch in the fall.
The black rat snake feeds by constriction and preys upon rats, mice and birds. This snake will also feed on bird, reptile and amphibian eggs.
Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
Interesting defensive behavior: when threatened, water snakes often flatten their heads and discharge a foul-smelling musk.
The diamondback water snake is an aquatic snake found in the Coastal Plain, Mississippi Alluvial, Arkansas River Valley and White River Valley regions of Arkansas. It inhabits wetland habitats but also makes a home in rivers and lakes.
This snake is usually brown or olive in color with black bars crossing the body in a chainlike pattern. The underside of the body is usually cream-colored.
Adults can reach four feet in length and are active from March to October. Breeding in April to May, the diamondback water snakes gives birth from about 13 to 62 young in late summer or early fall.
This snake's primary food source is fish and amphibians.
Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Interesting defensive behavior: this snake will flatten its head and strike with its mouth closed. If still feeling threatened, it will twist about, roll over, play dead and defecate.
The pattern and color of the Eastern hognose snakes varies widely with yellow, tan, orange and gray all being common colorations. The belly can also be a variety of colors including gray, yellow, red or mottled green-gray. This snake can be uniform in color or be patterned with black or brown blotches and bands.
It is found throughout Arkansas in habitats with sandy soils but only in localized populations. Adults grow to about three feet and are active from March to October. Females lay a maximum of 30 eggs that hatch in late summer.
The Eastern hognose snakes primarily feeds on toads and frogs.