Snakes are often the stuff of people's nightmares. A whopping half of the human population feels anxious around snakes, while 3% actually meet the diagnostic criteria for a snake-phobia, making ophidiophobia one of the most common phobias in the United States. Venomous snakes in particular can be terrifying, and copperheads, timber rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, or water moccasins cause more jump-scares yearly than horror movies. (Unofficial statistic.)
While some people say the only good snake is a dead snake, most snakes in North America are actually harmless, and even venomous snakes will go out of the way to avoid humans. Rattlesnakes, in particular, rely on camouflage to keep hidden from predators, and use their rattle to warn off attackers. Biting an animal or human is their last line of defense.
READ MORE: How to Kill a Rattlesnake the Ethical Way
Many endangered and threatened snakes are also protected by state and federal laws, and killing them could lead to fines or even jail-time. On the other hand, some states also allow the hunting of snakes, just like other small game, and people enjoy hunting them for the skins, their meat, or to keep invasive snake specie populations low.
The rules and regulations vary widely from state to state, so here is a complete breakdown of what snake species are illegal to kill in the United States. Keeping this in mind will help you avoid an uncomfortable encounter with your local wildlife agency officer.
Note: Some Snakes are Federally Protected
For simplicity's snake sake, below is a list of every species of snake in the United States currently protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This list came directly from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and unless otherwise noted, every species on this list is federally protected everywhere, regardless of what state law says about snakes. Killing these snake species can potentially result in fines of $25,000 per violation and prison time, so you'll want to leave these guys alone.
The list includes both venomous and non-venomous snakes, as well as a few species in U.S. Territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- Mona Island boa
- Puerto Rican boa
- Narrow-headed garter snake
- Northern Mexican garter snake
- Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake
- New Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake
- Atlantic salt marsh snake
- Black pine snake
- Copper-belly water snake
- Eastern indigo snake
- Giant garter snake
- San Francisco garter snake
- Alameda whip snake (aka: "striped racer")
We recommend giving these species a wide berth to avoid any trouble. If you have one of species in your yard and are concerned about it, call a professional to relocate it, especially if it's a venomous species. Most snake bites happen when people who are not trained in snake handling attempt to move or kill a snake themselves.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Alabama?
You are not allowed to capture, kill, sell or trade any of the following species in Alabama:
- Eastern indigo snake
- Eastern king snake
- Eastern coral snake
- gulf salt marsh snake
- prairie king snake
- rainbow snake
- speckled king snake
- or Southern hognose snake
There are no laws protecting other species. And of those protected species, the only one you need to worry about is the Eastern Coral, a venomous species.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Alaska?
Alaska Fish and Game's website technically lists four sea turtle species as the only reptiles in the Last Frontier. Some people say there are common garter snakes here, but it seems to be a subject of much debate.
In any case, there are no laws on killing snakes in Alaska. There are laws about illegally transporting snakes to Alaska. A firefighter found out three years ago when he tried to bring five garter snakes home from Idaho as pets. He ended up with a $500 fine.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Arizona?
In Arizona, killing Mexican or narrow-headed garter snakes and rock, Massasauga, or ridge-nosed rattlesnakes is illegal. You also can't kill a milk snake in Cochise County. If you want to kill a rattlesnake, ensure you have an appropriate hunting license because Arizona treats many snakes like game animals.
Also, make sure you identify the species first to make sure it's not a protected one.
Is it legal to kill snakes in Arkansas?
Some Arkansas residents might be surprised to learn that the Natural State protects all snakes. Some of you are probably saying, "wait a minute, what about that giant rattlesnake killed there a few years ago?"
One exception to the law is snakes that "pose reasonable threat or endangerment to persons or property." We're not legal experts, so we'll leave it up to you and local law enforcement to determine if your situation fits this definition.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in California?
This one is a bit surprising. We'd expect the laws to be strict in the Golden State, but if anything, they're some of the most lenient in the U.S.
You can kill any rattlesnake anywhere in California except for the endangered red diamond. There is some confusion here in the regulations. California categorizes snakes as game animals. But the state also puts its reptile regulations under the fishing regulations (for some odd reason). You'll need a fishing license to take them legally.
There are some specific bag limits and other limitations on which species you can harvest, varying from county to county. Read more in their regulations book, specifically Section 5.60. Oh, and don't forget about federally protected species because there are a few here.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Colorado?
Colorado is another state that may surprise people with its strict restrictions. The Centennial State treats all snakes as protected non-game species. The exception is prairie rattlesnakes, which have a regular season yearly. You are also allowed to kill a rattlesnake in self-defense. Even then, we'd recommend not killing a Massasauga here so that you don't run into problems at a federal level.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Connecticut?
This state protects four different species., including the Eastern rat snake, Eastern ribbon snake, Eastern hognose, and the timber rattlesnake. Other than those four species, we dug through Connecticut's regulations and could find no wording protecting other species.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Delaware?
The First State is another place that is vague on its rules regarding snakes. They list three species as endangered, the Redbelly Watersnake, the Eastern Scarlet Snake, and the Corn Snake. Other than these four, we went through both the hunting regulations and fishing regulations for Delaware and could find no specified seasons regarding the take of reptiles.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Florida?
Thanks to the warm ecosystem, Florida is a snake's paradise, and the list of species living here goes on seemingly forever. As if there weren't enough native snakes, there has also been an influx of non-native invaders like Burmese Pythons.
Those invaders are perfectly legal to kill on private property. They will likely get you a pat on the back for a job well done by your local Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer. Florida's hunting regulations explicitly list the following snakes as strictly off-limits for taking, possession or sale:
- Florida pine snakes
- short-tailed snakes
- key ringnecks
- rim rock crown snakes
- red rat snakes
- peninsula ribbon snakes
- and Florida brown snakes
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Georgia?
The law is straightforward in the Peach State: non-venomous snakes are off-limits for keeping as pets or killing them. Possessing or killing them is a misdemeanor. People violating the law could face jail time and a hefty $1,000 fine. Who would have thought?
Since they could pose a threat, Venomous snakes are non-protected in Georgia, meaning you can kill them without repercussions.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Hawaii?
The Aloha state is a lot like Alaska in that there's nothing on the books against killing snakes because, technically, there aren't supposed to be any snakes there. They're more worried about you illegally importing rather than killing snakes.
The only natural species on the island is the Yellow-bellied sea snake, and sightings are rare. An occasional Boa has been found here, but the snake Hawaiian wildlife officials worry about is the Brown Tree Snake. This snake invaded Guam and decimated native bird populations. If you kill one of these, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife will likely thank you.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Idaho?
The Gem State changed its rules back and forth a bit in recent years. The latest rules state you can take up to four snakes as long as you own a hunting license. This includes rattlesnakes.
The state used to have a rule about only killing rattlesnakes in self-defense, like Arkansas, but it seems they did away with this rule. While you are allowed to sell the skins of snakes, you are not allowed to sell the meat.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Illinois?
The Land of Lincoln is home to a surprising number of serpents, 39 different species, to be precise. Of those, there are only four you need to be concerned with, and those are copperheads, cottonmouths, timber rattlers, and massasauga rattlers. Remember that the last two are under federal protection.
As for the other species, taking or killing them is fine, but only on private property where you have permission.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Indiana?
This state has four venomous species. The cottonmouth, Massasauga rattler, and timber rattlesnake are endangered and cannot be harmed. Indiana also has the rough green snake, smooth green snake, scarlet snake, Southeastern crown snake, and the red-bellied mud snake listed as either special concern or state endangered.
You can legally kill all other species but must have a fishing or hunting license. Read more here.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Iowa?
The only snakes legal to kill in Iowa are garter snakes. There is an exception. Fourteen counties allow for the disposal of timber rattlesnakes. Still, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says that is only for snakes within 50 yards of an active residence. Otherwise, serpents are under complete protection in the Hawkeye State.
Is it legal to kill snakes in Kansas?
The Sunflower State is another one where you need to dig to find the regulations regarding reptiles. Killing snakes is legal, but you must have a hunting license. But remember, they have some federally protected species here, like the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. The only rattlesnake that is legal to kill in Kansas is the prairie rattlesnake. People wishing to do so must purchase a $22.50 permit if they don't already hold a hunting license.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Kentucky?
This state does have a population of federally protected copper-bellied watersnakes. These animals are strictly off-limits. Besides that, Kentucky seems to have a season and regulation for every animal you can think of. Except for snakes. We gave their hunting and fishing regulations a good once over and encountered nothing that said you couldn't kill them.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Louisiana?
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, Louisiana pine snakes, and black pine snakes are all protected species. Other than that, it seems Louisiana is wide open for the killing of snakes. I saw some people online saying you need a fishing license to kill snakes. But I was unable to confirm this by going through their regulation books. We'd say get one. Better to be safe than sorry.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Maine?
Northern black racers are protected in Maine. Other than that, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife doesn't list any specific seasons or regulations regarding reptiles in their state's laws.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Massachusetts?
Four endangered species are entirely off-limits. These are black rat snakes, copperheads, worm snakes, and timber rattlesnakes. Other than that, all other species in Massachusetts are legal to kill.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Michigan?
The Great Lakes State only has one venomous snake species, the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, which is federally protected. Don't worry; I've lived here my whole life and never seen one.
Michigan also added the Butler's garter and smooth green snake to their list of protected species a few years ago. Black rat snakes are also covered. Other than that, all other species are unprotected.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Mississippi?
If you want to kill a snake in the Magnolia State, ensure your fishing, hunting, or small game license is up to date. A few endangered species are off-limits, including the rainbow snake, ringed sawback, yellow-blotched sawback, and the Southern hognose.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Minnesota?
Timber rattlesnakes and Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes are protected in Minnesota. Species not regulated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are legal to kill.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Missouri?
The Show Me State is another case where the state protects all snakes. Snakes are classified as non-game, but under Missouri's laws, you can't kill them without a season.
Like many other states, there is an exception for a snake on your property or a threat. We'd recommend making sure you can prove it in case a Missouri DNR officer asks.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Montana?
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks have nothing in their regulations regarding killing snakes. They only recommend that people spending time in Montana be aware of the dangers of Prairie Rattlesnakes and request to avoid killing them unless they pose an immediate threat.
Is it Legal to Kill Snakes in Nebraska?
The Cornhusker State regulates the harvest of all reptiles and amphibians. The Western worm snake, timber rattlesnake, prairie kingsnake, and the specked kingsnake are all on Nebraska's list of protected species. A clause allows the killing of rattlesnakes if they threaten humans, pets, or livestock. Other species have a bag limit of three per species.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Nevada?
Nevada is home to no less than five species of rattlesnake, so it's worth watching where you step! Rattlesnakes are not protected, but the rosy boa and the Sonoran mountain king snake are. All other snake species are classified as unprotected.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in New Hampshire?
This state has 11 species of snake, and only one, the timber rattlesnake, is venomous. It's also the only species classified as protected under New Hampshire's laws. Although, New Hampshire Fish and Game ask residents to leave the other species alone.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in New Jersey?
The Garden State is another place that classifies snakes as non-game animals. But as such, that means it is illegal to kill them without a season.
Suppose you have a venomous snake in your yard. In that case, officials recommend calling the Department of Environmental Protection's "Venomous Snake Response Team." This team comprises 80 professional volunteers who will safely remove a problem reptile for you.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in New Mexico?
Most snake species are legal to kill or harvest, but annual bag limits vary from five to 30, depending upon the species.
Protected species include:
- Gray-banded king snakes
- Blotched water snakes
- Northern green rat snakes
- Brown garter snake
- Arid land ribbon snake
- Narrow-headed garter snake.
- New Mexico ridge-nosed rattlesnake.
- And the mottled rock rattlesnake.
Is it legal to kill snakes in New York?
All snakes are protected from killing or harassment in the Empire State. But there are only three venomous snakes here to worry about. One of these is the federally protected Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in North Carolina?
Even disturbing an Eastern diamondback, Eastern coral snake, pigmy rattlesnake, or timber rattler without a permit in North Carolina is illegal. So, you can probably guess how wildlife officials will react if you kill one!
You are also prohibited from killing or harassing the smooth green snake, outer banks king snake, Carolina water snake, or Southern hognose. Other than those, the rest of the snakes in the Tar Heel State are unprotected.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in North Dakota?
This state officially closed the take of turtles a while ago. Still, there is nothing in the North Dakota Fish and Game Department's regulations regarding snakes or other reptiles. North Dakota officials generally advise leaving snakes alone because the state has fewer snakes than many other places.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Ohio?
The Buckeye State is home to the endangered copper-bellied water snake and the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. Both snakes are under federal and state protections. Otherwise, Ohio doesn't regulate the taking of snakes in any way. The state is also home to timber rattlesnakes and Eastern copperheads.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Oklahoma?
Anyone killing a snake in Oklahoma must possess a hunting or fishing license. Oklahoma has a defined season for rattlesnakes from March 1 through June 30. There are no limits; hunters can harvest prairie, western diamondback, timber, and Massasauga rattlesnakes. However, Western mud snakes, wandering garters, and Gulf crayfish snakes are protected by a closed season. There is an annual bag limit of six snakes per year for every other species except rattlesnakes.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Oregon?
This state classifies the California mountain king snake, sharp-tailed snake, Western ground snake, and the common king snake as protected non-game species. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn't address snakes beyond that other than asking people to leave them alone if possible.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Pennsylvania?
This state has a season for both timber rattlesnakes and Eastern copperheads. But you're only allowed one per year. The serpent must be 42 inches long for timber rattlesnakes and possess 21 or more subcaudal scales. Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, Kirtland's snake, and Northern rough green snakes are entirely off-limits to killing at any time.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island is a bit of an anomaly in the United States in that it hosts zero venomous snake species. It sounds like the place to go if you're suspicious of these serpents. In any case, killing all snakes is illegal in this tiny state.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in South Carolina?
You can kill a snake in South Carolina. You just can't do it on public land. Anyone who does is subject to a misdemeanor charge and possible jail time and fines.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in South Dakota?
You only need to worry about one venomous species here, the prairie rattlesnake. Like North Dakota, snakes aren't addressed much by South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks other than basic 101 info. That leads us to believe killing snakes is legal there.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Tennessee?
The Volunteer State is one with rules that say there must be a set season to kill a specific animal. There are no seasons for snakes, making the killing of them illegal. We double-checked the regulations handbook just to be sure.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Texas?
It will probably surprise no Texan that the Lone Star State has few regulations for snakes. There are a whopping ten rattlesnake species that call this state home. It's not a total free-for-all like you might expect, as the Texas Eastern indigo snake is protected. Texas Parks and Wildlife know Texans like killing snakes. Still, they also try to discourage it wherever possible, likely to avoid mishaps or misidentification.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Utah?
Rattlesnakes are protected under state law here. Otherwise, the state has specified bag limits for many species of snake. Some species, like the red racer, have an "uncontrolled" status. In contrast, others, like the painted desert glossy snake, have a "controlled" status.
Utah hasn't updated its online information in quite some time, as some species still have "to be determined" status on the bag limit possession. We'd recommend not killing those snakes until a definite number is known.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Vermont?
Neither the fishing nor hunting regulations books of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department specifically address snakes. We couldn't find any references to the legality of killing other than the timber rattlesnake, listed as state endangered on their website. We recommend leaving Eastern rat snakes and North American racers alone, too. Both are listed as threatened.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Virginia?
Old Dominion isn't just for lovers. It's also for scaly serpents. There are three venomous species here, copperheads, cottonmouths, and timber rattlesnakes. But killing them or any snake species in Virginia is illegal. Like many other states, there is an exception if the snake presents a direct threat to people or pets.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Washington?
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hopes you will leave snakes alone. Killing them is illegal here unless you feel directly threatened by them.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in West Virginia?
West Virginia changed things up a bit in 2020 when they passed new regulations that protect all reptiles and amphibians from any sort of taking. It also protects their eggs and young from the collection. There is an exception for snakes found in a residence, business, outbuilding, or field for agriculture. In any other circumstance, you are not allowed to harm them. If you want to hunt snakes, you are limited by regulations. You can take a timber rattlesnake in West Virginia. Still, you are limited to a bag limit of one per year, and that snake must be 42 inches in length at a minimum.
Is It Legal to Kill Snakes in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin maintains a strictly closed season on queen Snakes, Western ribbon Snakes, Northern ribbon snakes, and Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes because all are endangered or threatened. Wisconsin's regulations seem to focus more on possessing live snakes than dead ones. Still, the possession limits for Eastern milk snakes, Western fox snakes, black rat snakes, and bull snakes are two.
Is it legal to kill snakes in Wyoming?
Faded midget rattlesnakes are illegal to kill in the Equality State. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's regulations say little else about snakes. The most common venomous species you're likely to encounter here is the prairie rattlesnake, and killing them is perfectly legal.
As you can see, the regulations vary from state to state and depend on the rarity of each subspecies. We know a lot of people don't like snakes. Still, they are essential wildlife resources because of how they kill pesky rodents and other small mammals that spread diseases. That's why we recommend killing as a last resort.