22 Different Snakes in California

Different Snakes in California
Photo by Sagar Kulkarni

California is one of the largest states in America and the world. This state has many ecosystems, great weather, a sunny climate, and a large space. All these attributes of California naturally make it one of the best places for wide life.

In the state of California, there is a wide range of wide life; some are harmless while others are a little more dangerous.

One of the wildlife animals that California houses are different types of snakes. Some of the snakes found in California are dangerous, while the rest are harmless.

According to research, there are over a hundred different snakes in California. For the sake of this article, we have combined a list of some of the different snakes in California you may come across.

We also have divided the list into 2; the common (less venomous snakes) and the venomous snakes for more understanding.

1. Gopher Snake

First on our list of the different snakes in California is the gopher snake. The gopher snake is a snake that can grow very large in size. Most times, because of their size, one may think they are venomous; however, they are as harmless as they come.

The average adult gopher can grow to about 7 feet long with an average of 2-9 feet; however, they are not venomous.

Wildlife keepers have discovered that this snake happens to be less interested in humans and more interested in other smaller animals. Their average lifespan is 10-15years.

The gopher snakes have brown, yellow, or green colors on their skin, with numerous black spots on them. Because of their size and length, it is easy for one to mistake them for rattlesnakes.

They appear as dangerous as they tend to shake their tails at predators as a rattlesnake would react.

However, it is quite easy to distinguish between a rattlesnake and a gopher. While rattlesnakes behave reclusively, a gopher snake is more open and free-spirited.

A gopher snake may approach you in short tight movements. Although this may make you believe you are in danger, the opposite is true.

On the other hand, rattlesnakes rarely approach humans independently; when they do, they hover in much wider curves than the gopher snake.

The gopher snakes are especially known for their special diet. As earlier mentioned, these snakes aren’t interested in humans; rather, they are fixated on rodents, lizards, bats, eggs, birds, and so on.

They also have a large range of predators, from coyotes to foxes and other birds of prey.
Sometimes, they deliberately mimic the movements of the rattlesnake by shaking their tails to wade off predators, including humans.

Gopher snakes are one of the widely known types of snakes that are found in California. You can easily spot one on a sunny day in a semi-arid, flat area.

2. California King Snake

Next on our list of different snakes in California is the California king snake. The California ING snake is seen in almost all areas in California.

Commonly referred to as the king snake, they are one of the most favorite snakes to have, which is greatly attributed to their coloring and size.

Unlike the gopher snake, at 3-5feet, they still maintain a small size such that you don’t need to have a gigantic terrarium to place them in.

They come in different colors and patterns and are very neat to the eyes. Sometimes, it is easy to mix the king snake with the coral snake or any other different snake in California, and that is due to their wide range of colors and patterns.

However, it is important to note that the king snake and the coral snake are two different species. Also, you should note that the coral snake isn’t part of the different snakes in California.

The king snakes are widely distributed in California and can also be found in urban areas. The king snakes, also like the gopher snakes, try to imitate the rattlesnakes by shaking their tails vigorously to wade off predators.

The king snakes aren’t readily aggressive and wouldn’t attempt to attack you unless you persistently disturb them. Another great thing about the king snake is that they are immune to snake venom, and as such, they are regularly preying on the rattlesnakes.

Hence, if you are being disturbed by a rattlesnake, you only need to get a king snake and watch them take care of your problem.

3. Ring-necked Snakes

The ring-necked snakes are another type of snake in California that you would come across. However, this species is nocturnal; hence, you probably haven’t come across one of them even if they reside near you.

They have dark bodies, which helps them to blend with their environment and also helps them to mask their nature. They are also very fast; hence it is difficult to see them as they usually take off immediately after they are spotted.

Their speed helps keep them in existence as they are easy prey to several predators such as owls, hogs, frogs, skunks, and so on. They can easily be seen in forests, mashes, hillsides, and other habitats accessible to snakes.

You can easily own one as well. To spot one, look for an 11-16 inch snake with an orange band around its neck. They have an average lifespan of 10-20years.

Although the ring-necked snakes are considered harmless to humans, they contain quite a bit of venom, which they use to paralyze their prey before killing them through constriction.

This venom is contained in their back teeth, and it is such a small portion that they would have to continually chew on their prey before the poison takes full effect. The ring-necked snakes feed on lizards, small frogs, worms, and slugs.

Fortunately for us humans, the venom they possess is very minute and can’t cause any damage, but that doesn’t mean that their bites don’t hurt.

4. Northern Rubber Boa

The Northern Rubber Boa is another harmless type of snake that you would see in California. The northern rubber boa snake is a nocturnal specie that is difficult to see during the day. They are usually plain colored with no patterns, and their skin is mostly brown.

Often, it is quite common to see marks of biting and chewing on their bodies. This is a result of them constantly having a face-off with rodents as they always hide out in rodent burrows during the day.

During the day, the Northern Rubber Boa finds a cool, shady place to rest, and they stroll out at night. Hence, they can be found in rat holes and mouse burrows if they aren’t seen under rocks or logs.

The average Northern Rubber Boa measures up to 21-30 inches in length and can live up to 20-40years.

5. Southern Rubber Boa

Another set of different snakes in California is the Southern rubber boa. Like the northern rubber boa, the southern rubber boa is plain colored and comes in either dark brown or light brown. They have an average length of 19-25 inches and can live up to 20 years.

This particular specie is known to reside in forests, especially hardwood forests. These species are among the few snakes with excellent abilities as they move swiftly on the ground. They are also known to be climbers, as well as great swimmers.

They generally come off as hostile to humans; however, they always give warning signs before they attack and bite you.

Furthermore, their bites have little or no effects on humans as they are non-venomous. They are generally very active within the months of April and July, during which they mate and are seen.

However, after July, they temporarily resign to their places of solitude before being seen again.
They feed on small birds, small mammals, and lizards.

They are also nocturnal as they mostly reside under large rocks and logs during the day and come out at night.

6. Rosy Boa

The Rosy boa, also known as the rosy coastal boa or the desert boa, is another set of different snakes in California you can find. Like the northern and southern boa, the Rosy boa is native to California.

They get their name from the unique color of their skin and can grow to as long as 44inches. They have a lifespan of 30 years.

This snake appears in different colors, which are a result of the impacts of the other elements of the environment on its skin.

They are especially even in rose salmon color, which brought about their name. The Rosy boa is mostly seen in Baja California as well as Southern California.

They are considered a friendly bunch as they allow for touching and humans to carry them. However, whenever they feel threatened, they tend to release a foul odor as a warning sign.

7. Glossy Snake

Also known as the faded snake, the glossy snakes are another classification of different snakes in California that has resided there for ages.

They are known to live within the California chaparral regions. These snakes are nocturnal and are only seen when they crawl out of their hideouts within large rocks.

These snakes are nocturnal and are only seen when they crawl out of their hideouts within large rocks. They feed on rodents at night when they go out for a stroll.

Although they are seen as nocturnal fellows, they come out sometimes during the day when they are hungry to hunt for prey.

Due to their secretive nature, they often appear rare as they are hardly seen during the day or at night.

However, like the rubber boa, the glossy snake also resides in rat holes and mice burrows during the day and at night. An adult glossy snake measures between 20-50 inches and has an average lifespan of 20 years.

8. Western Shovelnose Snake

The Western Shovelnose Snake is a group of small and different snakes in California that one would encounter.

They are known to be small and distinct because they measure between 11-17 inches and can be widely distinguished by the brown stripes found on their body.

This group of snakes is often considered desert snakes; hence it is impossible to see them in Northern California.

Instead, they are usually seen in parts of Southern California. Because they are smaller snakes, they don’t feed on mammals but enjoy feeding on insects. These snakes are mostly seen in areas with an abundance of rocks with little or no vegetation.

9. Eastern Racer

The Eastern Racer is one of the different snakes in California you would encounter. The Eastern racer is a non-venomous snake and is very fast, hence their name.

They can appear in either one uniform color or have different prints on their skins. These types of snakes in California are fairly common.

The California species usually come in rare colors, such as different shades of brown, which may include blue or black stripes.

This color is particularly seen in only the California species of the Eastern racers. Black Eastern racers are commonly seen. The black Eastern Racers are usually found in tall grasses.

Here, they hide and occasionally raise their heads to check for prey and predators. According to some beliefs, it is often said that the black Eastern racer is a constrictor, killing their prey by suffocation.

However, over time, this line of thought has been proven wrong. These snakes aren’t constrictors. Rather, they capture their prey and push their bodies on them to stop them from escaping before finally inserting their fangs into them.

10. Forest Sharp-tailed Snake

The Forest sharp-tailed snake is one of the different snakes in California that presents with another color head. These snakes show a dark or dark gray color lined with orange undertones.

Dorsally, they have a black or brown color, while their underbelly presents a light color with black scale patches.

These snakes are particularly termed to be ‘secretive agents’ as they tend to hide all day. You would mostly see the forest sharp-tailed snake after it rains.

This is the time they mostly come out to hunt for their prey. These snakes are known for having sharp teeth, and this serves as a great advantage as they tend to capture all kinds of prey, including the slippery ones such as salamanders.

11. Sharp-tailed Snakes

This is another group of different snakes in California that you would likely come across. These snakes go by various common names such as the brown snake, gentle brown snake, Oregon warm snake, pacific ground snake, etc.

These snakes are one of the very few that you would see in Urban areas of California. The adult sharp-tailed snake measures up to 12-18 inches in length. They have a banded coloring and are famous for their sharp tail.

The Sharp-tailed snakes are specifically known as burrowing species. They are known for burrowing; as such, you would often find them in soft soils where they can easily dig, move around and find slugs.

It is important to note that they aren’t poisonous. Finding this type of snake out in the open space is difficult. However, they can easily be seen in parks and gardens after removing large logs or stones.

12. Ring-necked Snakes

This group of different snakes in California is a species of bi-colored snakes(this means that they often present with two colors).

Their top skin is green, while their underbelly can be bright red or orange. These snakes are commonly seen and are not poisonous. They live on the ground and are very small, measuring 10-15 inches for their adults.

One would easily find these types of snakes where slugs and salamanders are abundant.
Usually, they use several methods to kill their prey.

They often begin first with constriction and may consider envenomation. These types of snakes in California don’t have a specific venom gland; however, they possess a small amount of venom that they can use as a backup to capture or kill their prey.

13. Desert Night Snakes

You need to be aware of this group of different snakes in California. The Desert Night snake is a group of species that have blotched gray mixed with brown color on their dorsal parts while having a different bright color on their underbelly.

Snakes found in this group are seen to inhabit specific habitats in California, such as the scrubs. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the grasslands and rocky terrains.

These snakes tend to grow long as their adults measure about 15 inches in length. However, these types of snakes can grow to as long as 26 inches in places with abundant food.

14. Coach Whip Snake

Are you searching for a common but different group of snakes in California? It would be best if you considered the coachwhip snake.

The Coachwhip snake is one of the most common snakes you can easily see roaming around. They are mostly seen in oil palms, grasslands, farms, and woodlands.

Most times, they make their presence known by raising their heads above the vegetation. They also use this method to scout for their prey.

Because of their bulky eyes, they have great eyesight. These sets of different snakes in California are very aggressive and fast.

It is imperative to note that the coachwhip snake shouldn’t be handled. Although their bites are not venomous, it doesn’t stop them from being painful.

These types of snakes are quick to bite and can inflict pain on the victim. They bite without giving the victim a prior warning. They are long, measuring up to 50inches in length, and very fast.

These snakes mostly tend to disappear just as quickly as they bite. The snakes of this particular genus can go as fast as 4miles per hour while fleeing.

15. Banded Water Snake

Also known as the Southern water snake, the Banded water snake is one of the different snakes in California you will discover.

These snakes are mostly seen in aquatic habitats. They are either seen having a deep green body covered with white stripes, an orange body with stripes, or a gray body with stripes. They are long snakes that can grow to a maximum of 42 inches.

They are non-poisonous and need water to survive; hence, they don’t travel far away from water sources. Therefore, one would mostly see these types of snakes in ponds or lakes.

Because they often share their habitats with other different types of snakes in California, it is easy for people to mix the banded water snake with other species of snakes, especially the venomous cottonmouth snake.

Although most different snakes in California are largely non-venomous, we also have a few groups of snakes you wouldn’t like to cross.

These snakes are commonly known as rattlesnakes. There are majorly seven types of rattlesnakes found in California that you should be aware of. They include;

16. Western Rattlesnake

The Western Rattlesnake is the most common venomous type of snake in California you would encounter. However, they are mostly seen in all parts of the states.

Because of their gray, yellow, or brown skin color, it is easy for them to blend into their environment easily. The best way to be aware of their presence is to hear them coming.

Often, the Western Rattlesnake announces its presence by their rattles; however, these sounds are not always guaranteed as they sometimes move in silence.

These snakes are a part of a huge venomous group known as the venomous pit viper snakes. Often, they are known to change their appearance and diet as they grow older.

Their young are seen to enjoy having insects, but as they grow into adults, they eat amphibians. They can grow to as long as 30 inches and easily adapt to their environment’s color so their prey doesn’t see them coming. These types of snakes are considered to be the only venomous snakes in Northern California.

Although their venom’s potency is high, these types of snakes in California prefer to use their poison on smaller prey than on larger ones that would flee.

17. Red Diamond Rattlesnake

The Red diamond rattlesnake is a long snake that can grow to about 38 inches. They have a faded red skin color. It is easy to find these types of different snakes in California, especially within certain areas such as Baja California, the islands of the Gulf of California, as well as Southern California.

According to reptile experts, the Red diamond rattlesnake is said to be the least poisonous among the venomous rattlesnake; however, this doesn’t mean that their poison isn’t potent.

Their bites remain lethal to humans, and in a situation where a person has been bitten, immediate medical attention is needed, and antivenom should be administered.

18. Side Winders

You should watch out for other venomous types of different snakes in California, are the sidewinder rattlesnakes.

Also known as the horned rattlesnakes, these groups of snakes belong to the venomous pit viper snakes. You will always come across small to medium snakes if you reside in Southern California.

Their adults measure about 17-30 inches in length. The side Winders get their name from their unusual movements in the sand and Arid areas.

They commonly leave a ‘J’ print after they have passed a particular area. They are usually seen during the winter as they are diurnal during this season.

However, because of the high temperature during the summer period, these snakes become nocturnal to escape the sun’s heat.

19. Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Also known as the Pale rattler, they belong to the set of venomous types of snakes in California that you may encounter, especially in Southern California.

They are considered mildly venomous; however, hospitalization is required after a person has been bitten, and antivenom must be administered immediately.

The pain from their bites can last up to an hour or even more. Because they are small snakes measuring a few feet, they mostly reside in mammal burrows, thus feeding on them. However, they also can be seen in rocky terrains such as the scrubs.

20. Mojave Rattlesnake

Another type of different snakes in California that are very dangerous is the Mojave Rattlesnake. They are very common small snakes that measure 3-4.5 feet in length when fully grown.

These snakes are considered one of the most venomous rattlesnakes you would ever encounter.

As their names imply, these sets of snakes are mostly seen in the Mojave desert and some outer parts of the city. They are known to be especially aggressive towards humans.

They have gray-brown colored skin. However, their venom is just as lethal. A human can die within hours of bite if antivenom isn’t immediately administered.

21. Panamint Rattlesnake

Another of the different snakes in California you must recognize and stay away from is the Panamint Rattlesnake. Also known as the tiger rattlesnake, this medium-sized snake has a gray coloring.

They are mostly seen in California and some parts of Nevada. They grow only 3-4 feet long. These different snakes in California are unique among the Rattlesnakes with their triangular head.

This head is used to mimic biting to scare off predators. These snakes are particularly venomous. Although they hardly bite humans, unlike the Mojave Rattlesnake, however, once bitten, antivenom must be immediately given.

Like other different snakes in California, the Panamint snake detects the presence of people with body heat and, as such, tends to run away at the sites of humans or other larger animals.

22. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Another specie of different snakes in California that are very dangerous is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Also known as the Texas rattler, they have gray-brown colored skin with lots of blotches, mostly seen on their dorsal bodies.

Often when a rattlesnake attacks a person in California, the rattlesnake responsible is the Western diamondback rattlesnake.

They are usually found in rodent burrows; they eat smaller mammals. Their bites are so lethal that it begins to cause muscle destruction when placed in their territory.

Aside from muscle destruction, their venom, when introduced into the bloodstream, can break down the blood cells, causing excessive bleeding.

Once a person is bitten, it is imperative that the person is carried to a hospital and an antivenom immediately administered.

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