I thought I had found all the native snakes in my area, but...
It has been a snakey week, what with moving a Black Rat Snake from one side of the road to the other Tuesday, and talking to some Landscapers while playing with it, and today, finding a snake crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville, managing to straddle it with my dad's old Thunderbird, and then catching an unknown (to me) snake that looked at first glance like a Copperhead! I quickly ascertained that it was not a Copperhead (pattern wrong), so there was no need of a stick to aid in moving it, just my bare hands. This is not as risky as it sounds; there are only two venomous snakes in this area, the Northern Copperhead and the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake - if it does not look like either of these (and head shape is NOT a reliable criterion), then it is safe to pick up, so I did.
I was still confused; it was reddish orange, with a lovely checkerboard belly, and blotches all across the back. Corn Snake? Nah; though some maps have them here, I have never seen one, and this one didn't have the spear point between the eyes. I had forgotten my camera at home (AGAIN!?!?! NO!!!!!! GRRRRR!!!!! >:o >:o ) Oh, well, I had my Blackberry with its skanky camera, and managed a few photos. My 83 year old mom was in the 'Bird, so I had to hurry, and along with being nipped (small head, small teeth, no damage, though the nips itched for a while...),
I am pretty sure (about 99% plus) that it is a Milk Snake, a species I have never encountered in the wild (have seen a few in captivity, but this one didn't look like them), though this one was a bit different from any I have seen; the blotches went all across the back, and the side blotches were reduced, almost like a Red Milk Snake, but very much like the "Intergrade" shown in Conant and Collins (Peterson's Guide) Third Edition, though this "Intergrade" is supposed to be along the coast and not here. Curious.
Anyway, I released her across the road in the direction she was headed, and went on.
The Appalachian Naturalist