Close up photo of a box turtle's head

Three major groups of reptiles are found in the park: turtles, lizards, and snakes.

Turtles are strangely constructed reptiles. A turtle’s body is encased in a hard shell that consists of an upper and lower half known as a carapace and plastron respectively. Turtles have no teeth. Their jaws are covered by sharp-edged, horny plates that allow the animals to shear and tear their food. Most turtles live in or near water, but lay shelled eggs on land. One of the Smokies most common species, the Eastern Box Turtle, is almost entirely terrestrial, although it may soak in a puddle on very hot days.

Eight turtle species inhabit the park:
Chelydra serpentina—Snapping turtle
Chrysemys picta picta—Eastern painted turtle
Graptemys geographica—Common map turtle
Terrapene carolina carolina —Eastern box turtle
Sternotherus minor peltifer—Stripeneck musk turtle
Apalone spinifera spinifera—Eastern spiny softshell
Sternotheros odoratus—Stinkpot
Trachymys scripta troostiii—Cumberland slider

Southeastern five-lined skink
Southeastern five-lined skink

Lizards have dry, scaly skins. They are active animals that use the heat of the sun to warm their bodies. The warm, dry habitats that most lizards favor occur only at fairly low elevations around the margins of the park. Most lizards have four legs and a tail, but one species that lives in the park, the Eastern Slender Glass Lizard, is legless and resembles a snake.

Nine species of lizards can be found in the park:
Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus—Eastern slender glass lizard
Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus—Northern fence lizard
Anolis carolinensis carolinensis—Northern green anole
Eumeces anthracinus—Coal skink
Eumeces fasciatus—Five-lined skink
Eumeces inexpectatus—Southeastern five-lined skink
Eumeces laticeps—Broadhead skink
Scincella lateralis—Ground skink
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus sexlineatus—Six-lined racerunner

The harmless Northern Water Snake is often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth - a species which is not found in the Smokies.
The harmless Northern Water Snake is often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth - a species which is not found in the Smokies.

Mike Maslona photo

The first question that most park visitors have when they see a snake is “Is it poisonous?” The answer is almost always “no,” since only 2 of the 23 species of snakes that live in the park are venomous: the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. The likelihood of an average visitor even seeing a venomous snake in the Great Smokies, let alone being bitten by one, is extremely small. There is no record of a human fatality due to snakebite in the park’s history.

Twenty three species of snakes live in the park:
Carphophis amoenus amoenus—Eastern worm snake
Cemophora coccinea copei—Northern scarlet snake
Coluber constrictor constrictor—Northern black racer
Diadophis punctatus edwardsii—Northern ring-neck snake
Elaphe guttata guttata—Corn snake
Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta—Black rat snake
Heterodon platirhinos—Eastern hognose snake
Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata—Mole kingsnake
Lampropeltis getula getula—Eastern kingsnake
Lampropeltis getula nigra—Black kingsnake
Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides—Scarlet kingsnake
Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum—Eastern milk snake
Nerodia sipedon sipedon—Northern water snake
Opheodrys aestivus—Rough green snake
Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus—Northern pine snake
Regina septemvittata—Queen snake
Storeria dekayi dekayi—Northern brown snake
Storeria dekayi wrightorum—Midland brown snake
Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata—Northern redbelly snake
Tantilla coronata—Southeastern crowned snake
Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis—Eastern garter snake
Virginia valeriae valeriae—Eastern earth snake
Agkistrodon Contortrix mokasen—Northern copperhead (venomous)
Crotalus horridus—Timber rattlesnake (venomous)


Recommended Reading
Books, maps and guides to the national park are available online from the park's nonprofit partner, the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Reptiles and Amphibians of the Smokies
The Smokies are the Salamander Capital of the World. This up-to-date full-color field guide covers 30 species, including frogs, turtles, snakes, and more. Contains 84 color photos in all, making it easy to identify salamanders, skinks, and other creatures.

Last updated: August 9, 2022

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