CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California





Commonly Encountered California Snakes

 









observation link

 
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 all of species of snakes shown below, so these are either the snakes most commonly encountered in California, or those that are the most difficult to identify for the novice.

Always keep in mind that most snakes vary in appearance, and a snake can look much different in motion than it does in still photos (where it is often coiled up unnaturally to fit in the picture better.)

Don't only consider the color of a snake - it can be lighter or darker than seen in these or in other pictures, and the pattern can also vary.


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

Feel free to email a picture to me along with information about where you saw it (city and county) and what it was doing.


Gopher Snake


This is the snake I am most often asked to identify.
It is very common in most of the state.

Not Dangerous to Humans

San Diego Gopher Snake
snake snake Sonoran Gopher Snake San Diego Gopher Snake
Great Basin Gopher Snake Pacific Gopher Snake Pacific Gopher Snake snake
    Striped gopher snakes are sometimes found in Northern California Movie

This harmless snake is common throughout California, and is active during the day. Often found in yards and gardens.
 

Coachwhip (Racer)


Common in the desert and southern California coastal region. Sometimes enters suburban yards.

Not Dangerous to Humans

Red Racer
snake
snake snake San Joaquin Coachwhip
Red Racer Red Racer Red Racer 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. Color can be brown, tan, black, or brick red.
 

Sharp-tailed Snake


Many people find these tiny snakes on their property in Northern California and in the Sierra Nevada foothills,
often while digging in leaf litter or under rocks or other surface objects.

Not Dangerous to Humans

Sharp-tailed Snake
snake Sharp-tailed Snake Forest Sharp-tailed Snake Forest Sharp-tailed Snake
Sharp-tailed Snake Sharp-tailed Snake snake Sharp-tailed snakes
Juveniles are tiny. Juveniles and sometimes adults are often bright reddish. The belly is light with black bars. 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. Most have bands or rings around the body, but some have stripes.
They can be brown or black with white or yellow bands or stripes.

Not Dangerous to Humans

california kingsnake
snake california kingsnake california kingsnake california kingsnake
snake California Kingsnake California Kingsnake california kingsnake video

    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. Very fast moving and mostly solid gray, greenish, or brown in color.
The young appear completely different from adults, with a pattern of dark blotches similar to a gopher snake.

Not Dangerous to Humans

western yellow-bellied racer
snake snake western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
western yellow-bellied racer racer western yellow-bellied 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. Long and very fast moving with light stripes on the sides (but not on the back.)
Often confused with gartersnakes which also have stripes on the sides.

Not Dangerous to Humans

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

Ring-necked Snake

Common throughout much of the state. Gray with a light ring around the neck.
Bright orange or yellow on the belly and under 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 Rattlesnake

Common throughout much of the state, but less common in suburban areas.
Has a large body with a large triangular head and a blunt tail with a rattle on the end.
This snake is often heard before it is seen, but it does not always rattle.

Venomous (poisonous) and Potentially Dangerous!

northern pacific rattlesnake
snake southern pacific rattlesnake snake great basin rattlesnake
northern pacific rattlesnake southern pacific rattlesnake southern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake
    Juveniles do not yet have a rattle, but they do have a yellow "button" at the end of the tail. Movie

This dangerous snake is common in many habitats throughout the state, including the mountains and Great Basin deserts, but not in the southern deserts.
 

Gartersnakes
(Several species)

Common throughout much of the state.
The head is slightly wider than the body. Most species of gartersnake have two or three light stripes,
but some have only side stripes and sometimes the stripes are faint.

Not Dangerous to Humans

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





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