The 11 Types of SNAKES That Live in Nevada! (ID Guide)
There are A LOT of snakes in Nevada!
And what’s interesting is that they are all incredibly unique and have adapted to fill many habitats and niches.
You’ll see that the snakes that live in Nevada are very different from each other.
For example, some species are venomous, while others use constriction to immobilize their prey. Or the fact that certain snakes are rarely seen because they spend most of their time underground, but others are comfortable living EXTREMELY close to humans.
Today, you’re going to learn about the 11 types of snakes in Nevada!
Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other Nevada guides!
3 FROGS Found in Nevada! (ID Guide)
4 Types of TURTLES in Nevada! (Both aquatic and land)
#1. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
- Crotalus atrox
- Adults typically grow to about 4 feet in length.
- Coloration ranges from brown, gray, brick red, pinkish, and chalky white. Look for the darker diamond-shaped blotches down its back, outlined by white scales.
- Broad, spade-shaped head with a black mask over the eyes. Elliptical pupils and pits between eyes and nostrils.
- A rattle on the tail alternates between black and white-colored bands.
This famous VENOMOUS snake only lives in extreme southern Nevada!
You might spot them in deserts, rocky hillsides, and river bottoms. But your best chance to see one might be on a rural road in the evening because of the heat the pavement retains.
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake Range Map
The Western Diamond-backed feeds on small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, prairie dogs, rabbits, mice, and rats. They also consume birds that fly within reach. Like other pit vipers, they ambush their prey and track them while the venom takes effect.
When threatened, these snakes typically stand their ground. They rattle and coil, lifting themselves off the ground to prepare to strike.
If you hear their characteristic rattle, make sure to leave the area slowly! Due to their specialized fangs and large venom glands, these snakes can deliver a lot of venom in a single bite! Untreated bites have a 10 – 20% mortality rate, so make sure to get to the hospital quickly if struck!
#2. Terrestrial Garter Snake
- Thamnophis elegans
- Adults range from 18 to 41 inches in length.
- Most adults have three yellow, light orange, or white stripes; one down their back and two down their sides.
- Coloration is widely variable. Individuals may be brownish or greenish. Some have red and black spots between the stripes, and occasionally all black individuals are found.
This snake can be difficult to identify in Nevada!
Even trained herpetologists have issues! Its coloration varies widely, and there are believed to be 6 subspecies, although scientists still debate this.
Terrestrial Garter Snakes occupy various habitats, including both grasslands and forests. They can even be found in mountainous areas up to 13,000 feet above sea level. As the name suggests, they’re primarily found on land. But interestingly, these garter snakes are great swimmers!
This species is the only garter snake in Nevada with a tendency to constrict prey! Most garter snakes grab their prey quickly and just swallow, rubbing their prey against the ground if necessary.
Terrestrial Garter Snakes aren’t aggressive or dangerous, but they do possess mildly venomous saliva! It can cause a muscle infection or even kill some muscle tissue. Most bites on humans just cause pain and some swelling.
#33. Valley Garter Snake
- Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi
- Adults range from 18 to 55 inches in length.
- Coloration is brown to black with three yellow stripes: one down the back and one down each side.
- Pronounced red bars between the yellow stripes. Yellowish chin, jaw, and belly, and a black head, which often has red sides.
- Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.
Valley Garter Snakes are found in various habitats, including forests, wetlands, scrublands, fields, shorelines, and rocky areas. They’re also well adapted to humans and are often found in urban areas.
Look for these snakes in western Nevada under rocks, logs, and other objects, which they use for cover and thermoregulation. During the winter, they hibernate, often communally, below the frost line. They will use a variety of underground cavities, including mammal and crayfish burrows, rock crevices, ant mounds, and manmade spaces such as foundations and cisterns.
When disturbed, Valley Garter Snakes try to escape into the water and are excellent swimmers. If captured, be prepared for them to release musk and feces onto your hands! They may also strike, but only if they feel extremely threatened.
The Valley Garter Snake is considered a species of low risk. They are quite common and adapt well to human-modified habitats. However, they are frequently killed on roadways and are sometimes killed out of fear.
#4. California Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis californiae
- Adults range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
- Most individuals are black or brown, with whitish bands running down their bodies.
These snakes are widespread across many types of habitats in Nevada.
Look for them in grasslands, deserts, and even suburban areas! Most of the year, these California Kingsnakes are found out during the day, except during cold weather when they retreat underground to enter a hibernation-like state called brumation.
California Kingsnake Range Map
Do you know how kingsnakes got the name “king?”
It refers to their ability to hunt down and eat other snakes! Incredibly, California Kingsnakes will even go after venomous rattlesnakes.
This species has the incredible adaptation to constrict its prey. In fact, California Kingsnakes have the strongest squeeze when compared to the size of their body! It’s thought they evolved this trait since their main diet consists of other reptiles, which don’t require as much oxygen as mammals.
#5. Mojave Rattlesnake
- Crotalus scutulatus
- Adults range from 2 to 4 feet in length.
- Coloration is green, gray, brown, tan, or yellow with darker diamond or diamond-like markings down the back.
- Heavy-bodied, triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the nostrils and eyes, and a black and white banded rattle at the end of the tail.
Sometimes called the Mojave Green, these venomous snakes are generally found in arid habitats. They prefer desert flatland with sparse vegetation, high desert, mountain slopes, grassy plains, Joshua tree woodlands, and scrub brush areas.
Mojave Rattlesnake Range Map
The Mojave Rattlesnake is one of the most venomous snakes in Nevada!
Their venom contains both neurotoxins that attack the nervous system and hemotoxins that attack the blood. These snakes are ambush predators and use their camouflage to wait unseen for unsuspecting lizards, rodents, toads, and snakes. Their potent venom means that you should give them distance and respect. If someone is bitten, chances of survival are good so long as medical attention is sought immediately.
Interestingly they are sometimes confronted by California Ground Squirrels. These ground squirrels are resistant to snake venom and adept at dodging strikes. They will defend their pups from the Mojave Rattlesnake with vigor!
#6. Speckled Rattlesnake
- Crotalus mitchellii
- Adults typically don’t exceed 39 inches in length.
- Coloration is a faded tan or light brown. The end of the tail has white coloration with narrow black rings that end in a rattle.
- Large triangular head and heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils.
Look for this venomous snake in southern Nevada inhabiting rocky, arid country, including canyons, rocky hillsides, and rock ledges. Their color usually matches the color of the rocks and soil in their habitat.
Speckled Rattlesnakes spend most of the daytime in the shelter of rocks and burrows to avoid the heat of the desert during the day. They’re mostly nocturnal and spend their nights hunting small mammals, though they’ll also consume birds and lizards.
Like other rattlesnakes, this species gives birth to live young. Mating occurs in the spring, and in late summer, the females give birth to litters of up to 12 young.
#7. Panamint Rattlesnake
- Crotalus stephensi
- Adults range from 23 to 52 inches in length.
- Coloration varies, and snakes can be mixtures of tan, yellow, off-white, gray, or brown with vague or distinct speckled banding.
- Thick body and neck, large triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, keeled scales, and a tail rattle.
The Panamint Rattlesnake is a venomous ambush hunter and primarily waits by rodent trails for prey to pass by. They also feed on other small mammals, lizards, and birds and use their heat-sensing pits to help locate food. Once they strike, they let their victim run away, only to track them once the venom takes effect.
Panamint Rattlesnake Range Map
These venomous snakes will rattle when threatened. If you encounter an agitated one, make sure to back away slowly and leave the area. If pressed, these Panamint Rattlesnakes will strike, and bites require immediate medical attention due to their potent venom.
During the spring breeding season in southwestern Nevada, males engage in what is known as the “combat dance.” Neither male is hurt, but they twine together and try to wrestle the other to the ground to determine who will get to mate with the desired female.
- Crotalus cerastes
- Adults are small and range from 17 to 30 inches in length.
- Coloration may be cream, buff, gray, yellowish-brown, or pink with dark blotches down the middle of the back and smaller dark blotches down the sides.
- They have distinctive supraocular scales, which look like horns over the eyes. Also commonly called Horned Rattlesnakes.
These venomous snakes are most active in southern Nevada at dawn and dusk.
Sidewinders have a habit of submerging themselves in the sand with a practice called “cratering.” They shift their body from side to side to bury themselves. If you see “J” shaped tracks leading to a depression in the sand, be careful as there may be a dangerous snake buried underneath!
While buried in the sand, the Sidewinder waits to ambush unsuspecting prey. They feed on small mammals, lizards, and birds. Juvenile snakes may use caudal luring with their tail tips, mimicking the movements of moths. The young snakes feed primarily on lizards, while mature snakes feed more on desert rodents.
Sidewinders get their name from their unique form of locomotion, where it appears they are slithering sideways! This adaptation allows them to travel quickly over loose sand (up to 18 mph) and also helps them stay cool in the desert heat. This movement leaves a characteristic “J” shape in the sand.
Sidewinder Rattlesnakes have moderately toxic venom and a relatively low venom yield compared to other rattlesnakes. Symptoms of a bite include pain, dizziness, necrosis, weakness, and discoloration. However, fatalities have occurred, and these venomous snakes are known to be somewhat aggressive. They should be treated with caution, and bites should be handled as a medical emergency.
#9. Great Basin Rattlesnake
- Crotalus oreganus
- Adult size varies widely over their range, with the largest individuals being 6 feet in length.
- Coloration is a pale yellow, light gray, or tan, with black or brown splotches.
- Triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, dark stripe with white borders that runs from the eye towards the jaw.
- Great Basin Rattlesnakes are subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake.
Also known as the Western Rattlesnake, this venomous species occupies a wide range of habitats in Nevada. They can be found in mountainous areas, woodlands, and grasslands. They also often occur in close proximity to humans.
Great Basin Rattlesnakes have excellent camouflage and unique coloring, as these snakes show considerable variation. When they’re young, they have a distinct color pattern, but it fades over time as the snakes mature.
These snakes may be active during the day or night and are often curled, waiting to ambush a variety of prey. They’ll feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They may also eat bird eggs, and young snakes often feed on insects.
#10. Sierra Garter Snake
- Thamnophis couchii
- Adults range from 18 to 38 inches in length.
- Coloration is widely variable and may be olive-brown, dark brown, or blackish. Darker blotches on the back and upper sides, which may be obscured in individuals with darker coloration.
- A light stripe on the back and sides may be present but isn’t distinctive except on the neck.
Sierra Garter Snakes are found in western Nevada in oak woodlands, coniferous forests, chaparral, pine juniper, and sagebrush. They are almost always found in association with a water source such as creeks, rivers, meadow ponds, or small lakes. They are typically located at elevations between 3000 and 8000 feet above sea level.
These snakes primarily feed on fish and amphibians and their larvae, including frogs, tadpoles, trout, and salamanders. This species has been observed eating adult Pacific Newts which are toxic to most predators.
They are not believed to be a threatened species. However, the introduction of non-native fish and American Bullfrogs to their range may hurt their population. Scientists are currently monitoring the situation.
#11. Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis pyromelana
- Adults reach up to 36 inches in length.
- Coloration is red, black, and yellow, white, or cream bands with the black bands bordering the red.
- The head is white with a black band over the eyes.
These snakes are primarily found in mountainous areas in Nevada, with elevations between 3000 and 9000 feet above sea level. They occupy chaparral, conifer forests, juniper woodlands, and rocky areas and are frequently spotted along streams or near springs.
Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes are very secretive and often spend their days under rocks, logs, or in dense clumps of vegetation. They hunt at night, and like other kingsnakes, this species is a powerful constrictor. Lizards, birds, rodents, and other small snakes make up the majority of their diet.
Despite their mimicry of coral snakes, Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes are NOT venomous!
So how do you tell the difference between a dangerous coral snake and a harmless Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake in Nevada?
Just remember this rhyme and you’ll never have to worry! “If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re all right, Jack.”
Do you need additional help identifying snakes in Nevada?
Try this field guide!
Which of these SNAKES have you seen before in Nevada?
Leave a comment below!