The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Tuesday, 13 June 2023 19:53

If you see this vanishing snake alert the state

Written by

Pine snake notice

Help TWRA save our pine snakes

NASHVILLE — If you see a vanishing northern pine snake, biologists with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) want to know.

One subspecies of the pine snake, (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus), lives in Tennessee. The snake is considered “threatened” by TWRA due to habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, and humans who kill the snakes because they mistake them for timber rattlesnakes.

Brian Flock, biodiversity coordinator for TWRA, said the reports will help the agency find out about the threatened snakes’ habitat and behavior.

“For years we’ve tried to find them. Because of their secretive nature, they’re hard to find,” he said. “We don’t know in Tennessee where they live, how they move around, those kinds of things.” He said they mostly seem to exist in West Tennessee but have been spotted as far east as Knoxville. TWRA, he said, may use the public’s information to add radio tracking devices to the snakes.

He recommended people share photographs, if possible, due to the easy confusion with other species. 

One such species is the timber rattlesnake, which has chevrons, whereas the pine snake has more of a saddle pattern. Timber rattlesnake patterns are more of a band; the pine snake patterns are more broken up. Unlike timber rattlesnakes, pine snakes have no pattern near the head. Pinesnakes are also more cream colored compared to timber rattlesnakes which are dark gray. 

“The main thing is the pattern is more distinct on the timber rattlesnake,” Flock said. Many timber rattlesnakes also have reddish or rusty stripes that go down their backs.

One source of confusion is that pine snakes, like other non-rattlesnake species, can make a rattling sound by moving around in leaves. However, they tend to do it less often than just leaving.

“Pine snakes tend to be a little less aggressive. They tend to just get away from people,” Flock said. People sometimes also confuse them for gray rat snakes.

Gray rat snakes are mostly darker gray or even black, although the patterns can be pretty close. Pine snakes don’t have patterns around their heads. Gray rat snakes have patterns that go to the top of their heads.

You can contact Jesse Eaker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Mallory Tate at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you see a pine snake.

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Last modified on Saturday, 17 June 2023 22:39