A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

California Snakes Taxonomy

Scientific Name

Common Name Original Description Alternate Names
Order Squamata
Scaled Reptiles (Snakes) Oppel, 1811  

Squamata is the largest order of reptiles, made up of lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians, animals distinguished by their skins which bear horny scales or shields which must be periodically shed.

Wickipedia - Squamata

Family Boidae
Boas Gray, 1825  

The boidea are a family of nonvenomous snakes found mostly in North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean, that includes some of the world's largest snakes.
Males have conspicuous anal spurs on either side of the vent, which are vestigial hind limbs.
Prey is killed by constriction.
Most species of boas are ovoviparous, with females giving birth to live young.

Wickipedia - Boidae

Genus Charina
Rubber Boas (Gray 1849)  

Charina is a genus of boas known as Rubber Boas, found in North America.

Wickipeda - Charina

Genus Lichanura
Rosy Boas Cope, 1861  

Lichanura is a genus of snakes distributed across the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, known as the Rosy Boas.

Wickipedia - Lichanura

Family Colubridae
Harmless Egg-Laying Snakes Oppel, 1811  

Colubridae is the largest family of snakes, found on every continent except Antarctica.
Most colubrids do not have dangerous venom, including those found in North America, though the venom of some species found in Africa and Asia can be deadly.

Wickipedia - Colubridae

Genus Arizona
Glossy Snakes Kennicott, 1859  

A genus of colubrid snakes endemic to the United States and Mexico.
A mostly nocturnal, relatively slender snake with smooth shiny skin and round pupils.

Wickipedia - Arizona

Genus Bogertophis
Desert Ratsnakes Dowling and Price, 1988  

A genus of rat snakes endemic to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Mostly nocturnal with a long slender body with a long head distinct from the neck.

Wickipedia - Bogertophis

Genus Chionactis
Shovel-nosed Snakes Cope, 1860  

A genus of small harmless colubrid snakes called Shovel-nosed Snakes.

Wickipedia - (Wickiepedia does not recognize the genus Chionactis, and puts them into the genus Sonora)

Genus Coluber
North American Racers, Coachwhips, Whipsnakes Linnaeus, 1758  

A species of nonvenomous colubrid snake endemic to North and Central America, commonly called racers.
Fast-moving, highly active, diurnal snakes with a broad head, a slender neck, and large eyes.
Some subspecies are good climbers, climbing trees to eat eggs and young birds.
Oviparous - the female lays eggs.

Wickipedia - Coluber

Genus Contia
Sharp-tailed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of small, smooth-scaled colubrid snakes endemic to North America commonly called sharp-tailed snakes, characterized by a sharp point at the end of the tail.

Wickipedia - Contia

Genus Diadophis
Ring-necked Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of small, harmless, secretive, nocturnal, smooth-scaled colubrid snakes commonly called ring-necked snakes because they are typically marked with a light ring around the neck.
Known for their defensive posture with the tail curled up to expose brightly-colored ventral surface.
Females lay eggs.

Wickipedia - Diadophis

Genus Hypsiglena
North American Nightsnakes Cope, 1860  

A genus of small rear-fanged colubrid snakes, commonly called Night Snakes.

Wickipedia - Hypsiglena

Genus Lampropeltis
Kingsnakes and Milksnakes  Fitzinger, 1843  

A genus of smooth-scaled colubrid snakes called Kingsnakes and Milksnakes that varies widely in size and color, native to North America.

Wickpedia - Kingsnake

Genus Masticophis

Whipsnakes or Coachwhips

Baird & Girard, 1853  

A genus of long slender, fast-moving diurnal colubrid snakes endemic to the Americas, commonly called whip snakes or coachwhips.

Wickipedia - Masticophis

Genus Nerodia
North American Watersnakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of heavy-bodied, largely-aquatic, nonvenomous, colubrid snakes with keeled dorsal scales, and flattened heads with small round-eyed pupils, commonly called Water Snakes.

Wickipedia - Nerodia

Genus Phyllorhynchus
Leaf-nosed Snakes Stejneger, 1890

A genus of small, heavily-bodied colubrid snakes with short shovel-like snouts and an enlarged rostral scale, native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, commonly called Leaf-nosed Snakes.

Wickipedia - Phyllorhynchus

Genus Pituophis
Bullsnakes, Pinesnakes, & Gophersnakes Holbrook, 1842  

A genus of large, powerfully-build nonvenomous colubrid snakes with a relatively small head not much larger than the neck, endemic to North America and commonly called Gopher Snakes, Bullsnakes, and Pine Snakes. A modification of the epiglottis allows these snakes to produce a loud hissing sound.

Wickipedia - Pituophis

Genus Rhinocheilus
Long-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of nocturnal, burrowing, colubrid snakes with a long slightly upturned snout, native to the western United States and Mexico, commonly called Long-nosed Snakes.

Wickipedia - Rhinocheiulus

Genus Salvadora
Patch-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of fast-moving, slender, diurnal, colubrid snakes with large eyes and an enlarged rostral scale used for digging into loose soil, native to the western United Sates and Mexico, commonly called Patch-nosed Snakes.

Wickipedia - Salvadora

Genus Sonora
North American Groundsnakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of small, harmless, nocturnal colubrid snakes endemic to North America commonly called Ground Snakes.

Wickipedia - Sonora

Genus Tantilla
Black-headed, Crowned, & Flat-headed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853  

A genus of small colubrid snakes found in the Americas, commonly called Blackhead Snakes, Centipede Snakes, and Flathead Snakes. The diet consists mainly of invertebrates.

Wickipedia - Tantilla

Genus Thamnophis
North American Gartersnakes Fitzinger, 1843  

A genus of small to medium-sized colubrid snakes with keeled scales and large round eyes with round pupils, native to North and Central America, commonly called Garter Snakes and Ribbon Snakes.

Wickipedia - Garter Snake

Genus Trimorphodon
Lyresnakes Cope, 1861  

Trimorphodon is a genus of mildly venous rear-fanged colubrid snakes, commonly known as Lyre Snakes.

Wickipedia - Trimorphodon

Family Elapidae
Elapids F. Boie, 1827  

A family of mostly-venomous snakes characterized by permanently erect fangs at the front of the mouth, long slender bodies with smooth scales, a small head covered with large shields, and eyes with round pupils.

Wickipedia - Elapidae

Subfamily Hydrophiinae
Seasnakes and Allies Fitzinger, 1843 Sea Snakes

Hydrophinnae is a subfamily of venomous snakes in the family Elapidae.

Wickipedia - Hydrophiinae

Genus Hydrophis
Seasnakes Latreille ex Sonnini and Latreille, 1801 Formerly in genus Pelamis

Hydrophis is a genus of sea snakes.

Wickipedia - Hydrophis

Family Leptotyphlopidae
Threadsnakes Stejneger, 1891 Blind Snakes

A family of small fossorial blind snakes found in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, with a cylindrical body, a blunt head, a short tail, and smooth shiny cycloid scales. Most, including our California native species, are oviparous - laying eggs that hatch outside the female.

Wickipedia - Leptotyphlopidae

Genus Rena
Threadsnakes   Formerly in genus Leptotyphlops

A genus of snakes in the family Leptotyphlopidae that is endemic to the New World.

Wickipedia - Rena

Family Typhlopidae
Blindsnakes Merrem, 1820  

A family of blind snakes found mostly in tropical regions with a large rostral scale for burrowing, vestigial eyes which can detect light, and a tail with a horn-like scale at the end. Most species are oviparous, laying eggs that hatch outside the body.

Wickipedia - Typhlopidae

Genus Indotyphlops
South Asian Blindsnakes Hedges, Marion, Lipp, Marin, and Vidal, 2014 Formerly in genus Ramphotyphlops

A genus of snakes endemic to Asia in the family Typhlopidae.

Wickipedia - Indotyphlops

Family Viperidae
Vipers Oppel, 1811 Crotalidae - Pitvipers

A family of venomous snakes with long hinged fangs, found in most of the world excluding Antarctica, Australia and some isolated islands. Most vipers have keeled scales, a heavy body with a short tail, and a triangular-shaped head, and elliptical pupils. Most are ovoviparous - young emerge alive from the female.

Wickipedia - Viperidae

Genus Crotalus
Rattlesnakes Linnaeus, 1758  

A genus of venomous pit vipers known as rattlesnakes found only in Northern, Central, and South America, from southern Canada to northern Argentina.

Wickipedia - Crotalus

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