CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Commonly Encountered California Snakes





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Check the following pictures first if you are trying to identify a snake you have found in California.

I have received many emails asking me to identify the following snakes, so these are either the snakes most commonly encountered in California, or at least those that are difficult to identify for the novice.

Always keep in mind that most snakes vary in appearance, and can look much different in motion than they do in still photos (where they are usually coiled up to fit in the picture.)

Don't just look at the color of a snake - it can be lighter or darer than seen here.

If you do not find your snake here, then try going back to the Snake Identification page.

Feel free to email a picture to me along with information about how and when you saw it and where - city and county are close enough.



Gopher Snake
- The snake I am most often asked to identify

Not Dangerous to Humans

San Diego Gopher Snake
snake snake snake snake
   
Movie
This harmless snake is common throughout California, and is active during the day. Often found in yards and gardens.
 

Coachwhip (Racer)
- Very common in the desert and desert suburbs.

Not Dangerous to Humans


Red Racer
snake
snake snake snake
   
Movie
This harmless snake is common in southern California and less common in the San Joaquin Valley and foothills, and is active during the day.
 

Sharp-tailed Snake
- Many people find these tiny snakes on their Northern California property.

Not Dangerous to Humans

Sharp-tailed Snake
snake snake snake Sharp-tailed snakes
    Movie
This harmless and secretive snake is common along most of the north and central coast and in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is often found in backyards under debris, and rarely seen active day or night.
 

California Kingsnake
- Common throughout the state. They can be banded or striped.

Not Dangerous to Humans

california kingsnake
snake snake snake snake

 
Movie
This harmless snake is common throughout most of California. It is active day and night. It is variable in appearance and can black or brown, and banded or striped.
 

Western Racer
- Common throughout most of the state. Fast moving and solid in color.
Grey, greenish, or brown. Young have a light and dark pattern.

Not Dangerous to Humans


western yellow-bellied racer
snake snake racer western yellow-bellied racer video
  Juveniles are patterned Movie
This harmless snake is common throughout most of California excluding the deserts, and is active during the day.
     

Striped Racer
or Whipsnake - Common throughout most of the state.

Often confused with gartersnakes due to the stripes.

Not Dangerous to Humans

California Striped Racer
snake snake snake snakev
   
Movie
This harmless snake is common along most of the coast and in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Often mistaken for a gartersnake, this slender, fast snake is active during the day.
 

Ring-necked Snakes
- Common throughout much of the state.

Grey with a ring around the neck. Shows bright orange or yellow below and at the end of the tail.

Not Dangerous to Humans

San Diego Ring-necked Snake
snake snake snake San Diego Ring-necked Snake
San Diego Ring-necked Snake San Diego Ring-necked Snake Coral-bellied Ring-necked Snake snake
      Movie
This harmless little snake is common but secretive. Usually discovered hiding underneath surface objects in moist areas, but sometimes seen crawling in daylight.
 


Western Rattlesnakes
- Common throughout much of the state.

Large-bodied with a large triangular head and a blunt tail with a rattle on the end.

Venomous (poisonous) and Potentially Dangerous!

northern pacific rattlesnake
snake southern pacific rattlesnake snake great basin rattlesnake
northern pacific rattlesnake southern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake
    Movie
This dangerous snake is common in many habitats throughout the state outside of the deserts.
 

Gartersnakes
- Common throughout much of the state.

Usually with two or three light stripes, but not always, with a wide head.

Not Dangerous to Humans

Coast Gartersnake
Sierra Gartersnake
Santa Cruz Gartersnake
snake snake snake snake
snake snake snake snake
Two-striped Gartersnake Diablo Range Gartersnake Habitat Coast Gartersnake California Red-sided Gartersnake
Movie Movie Movie Movie
       
These harmless snakes are common in many habitats throughout the state, typically in areas near water.





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