There are A LOT of snakes in Oregon!
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 Oregon 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 7 types of snakes in Oregon!
#1. 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 Oregon!
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 Oregon 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.
#2. 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 Oregon 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 in Oregon. 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.
#3. 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 southwest Oregon.
Look for them in woodlands, grasslands, marshes, 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.
#4. Western Rattlesnake
- Crotalus oreganus
- Adult size varies widely over their range, with the largest individuals being 6 feet in length.
- Two subspecies live in Oregon – Northern Pacific and Great Basin.
- Triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, dark stripe with white borders that runs from the eye towards the jaw.
You can find two different subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake in Oregon, and they look completely different. The Northern Pacific variety is dark brown or black with lighter-edged blotches. Great Basin Rattlesnakes are typically pale yellow, light gray, or tan, with brown and blackish blotches.
This venomous species occupies a wide range of habitats in Oregon. They can be found in mountainous areas, woodlands, and grasslands. They also often occur in close proximity to humans.
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.
Like other rattlesnakes, this species gives birth to live young. Healthy, sexually mature females can give birth to litters of up to 25 babies!
#5. Aquatic Garter Snake
- Thamnophis atratus
- Adults range from 18 to 40 inches in length.
- Coloration varies greatly depending on location and subspecies.
- They may be pale grey with alternating rows of dark blotches on the sides, dark brown with less distinct borders, or nearly all black.
- May have a yellow stripe down the back or on the neck.
The Aquatic Garter Snake occupies various habitats in southwestern Oregon, including brushlands, woodlands, grasslands, and forests. But, as the name suggests, they are always near a water source such as a pond, marsh, stream, or lake.
These snakes prey on fish, salamanders, toads, and newts. They don’t constrict their prey but may use their body to encircle it in shallow water and then strike to prevent it from escaping.
Aquatic Garter Snakes feel the safest in the water. If they feel threatened or need to escape, they flee as quickly as possible to the nearest source of water!
#6. Northwestern Garter Snake
- Thamnophis ordinoides
- Adults average between 12 and 24 inches in length.
- COLORATION IS HIGHLY VARIABLE. Individuals can be blackish, olive, brownish, bluish, or gray, sometimes with a reddish tint.
- Typically has three stripes, one down the back and one down each side. The color of these stripes can be red, yellow, orange, tan, white, greenish, or blue; however, on certain snakes, the stripes may be dull, narrow, or absent!
The Northwestern Garter Snake prefers damp areas in western Oregon with lots of vegetation and open sunny areas. They may be spotted near houses and are often found when moving boards, logs, or other objects that they use for cover.
This species is predominantly terrestrial. However, these garter snakes can swim, and some local individuals have been observed hunting in the water! They feed mainly on slugs and earthworms, but they also prey on snails, small amphibians, and possibly fish.
The Northwestern Garter Snake will typically flee into dense vegetation if disturbed. One study found that individuals with stripes usually move away quickly because their stripes make it difficult for predators to determine their speed. But plain or spotted individuals frequently freeze while fleeing because their excellent camouflage helps them blend in while they’re motionless.
#7. California Mountain Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis zonata
- Adults typically range from 20 to 50 inches in length.
- Coloration is bands of black, red, and off-white or grayish-white. Red bands, bordered by black bands are the widest.
- The snout is typically black but may have some red.
The California Mountain Kingsnake is a habitat generalist. They’ll occupy various habitats, including coniferous forests, pine-oak woodlands, riparian woodlands, chaparral, manzanita, and coastal sage scrub. They prefer wooded areas near streams, rocky outcrops, or rotting logs that provide cover.
These snakes are constrictors that feed on a wide variety of prey. Lizards, amphibians, nesting birds, bird eggs, and other snakes (including their own species) make up most of their diet.
These secretive snakes spend much of their time in southwest Oregon under objects like logs, underground, or in rock crevices.
Though brightly colored, they are non-venomous.
Do you need additional help identifying snakes in Oregon?
Try this field guide!
Which of these SNAKES have you seen before in Oregon?
Leave a comment below!
Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other Oregon guides!