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CALIFORNIA, (KTXL) — Seeing a snake in the wild can be a heart-stopping moment, and with nearly 50 types of snakes calling California home it can be difficult to know what you are looking at.

Here is a list of California’s snakes, including which ones pose the greatest harm to humans. All of the following information was collected from iNaturalist.

iNaturalist was created in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic.


Mojave Rattlesnake

An adult mojave rattlesnake in a defensive stance.

Habitat: It can be found in the Southwest of the United, Southern California, Southern Nevada, most of Arizona and southern New Mexico.

More specifically they can be found in the high desert, low mountain slopes, sagebrush, mesquite, creosote, areas of sparse vegetation, among cacti, Joshua tree forests or grassy plains.

Appearance: These snakes can appear in serval shades of brown to pale green based on the surrounding environment. Sometimes this green color is referred to as “Mojave greens”.

Diet: Small rodents and lizards

Lethality: The Mojave Rattlesnake is the world’s most venomous rattlesnake. Chances of survival are good if medical attention is received as quickly as possible.

Red Diamond Rattlesnake

Portrait of a red diamond rattlesnake in the sand, venomous pit viper specie from America (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: The Red Diamond Rattlesnake can be found in Southwestern California and Baja California.

Specifically, they can be found in cooler coastal zones, mountains and deserts. It prefers dense chaparral county of the foothills, cactus patches and boulders covered with brush.

Appearance: Has distinguishing reddish color

Diet: Rabbits, ground squirrels, lizards and other snakes

Lethality: Has one of the least potent rattlesnakes venoms. If a person does receive a bite medical attention should be sought out as soon as possible.


Cerastes cerastes, the horned desert viper in a terrarium (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Deserts of the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico

Appearance: One of the unique characteristics of the sidewinder is its raised supraocular scales above its eyes that give the appearance of horns.

Diet: lizards and rodents

Lethality: Their venom is less dangerous than other larger rattlesnakes, but any rattlesnake bite should be taken seriously and medical attention should be provided as soon as possible.

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Close up of a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Southern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and western Arizona.

They tend to reside in rocky hillsides, canyons, talus slopes and rocky ledges. They have been found at elevations more than 5,000 feet.

Appearance: Coloration can vary depending on its environment. It may be pink, brown, gray, yellow or almost white with black and white speckles.

Diet: Small mammals, birds and lizards

Lethality: Bites on humans have resulted in extreme swelling, large blisters and several hours of intense pain.

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

This is an albino western diamondback rattlesnake. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found from central Arkansas to southwestern and Central California.

Appearance: Hosts a series of color patterns including a gray-brown ground color, pinkish-brown, brick red, yellowish, pinkish or chalky white.

Diet: bird, lizards, mice and lizards

Lethality: The Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake accounts for the greatest number of snakebites in the United States. As they stand their ground when they are confronted, they are considered one of the most aggressive rattlesnakes in the United States.

Western Rattlesnake

Prairie rattlesnake blending into the ground & grass in Alberta, Canada (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found in Washington, Oregon and California. It can also be found in parts of Mexico and Canada

Appearance: Its coloration can be dark-brown, dark-gray and olive-brown with black blotches and uneven white edges.

Diet: birds, bird eggs, small mammals, reptiles

Lethality: These are venomous

Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: This species of sea snake has been found in the Indo-Pacific, Costa Rice and Southern California. In 2015, they were seen and photographed on beaches in Ventura County.

Appearance: These snakes have a bicolor pattern with a yellow underbelly and brown back.

Diet: They eat pelagic fish by floating on the surface of the water to attract fish seeking shelter. They then swim backward and lunge at the fish with their jaws open.

Lethality: The venom from this snake can cause damage to skeletal muscle with consequent myoglobinuria, neuromuscular paralysis or direct renal damage.


California King Snake

Macro beautiful California kingsnake snake close up (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: This species lives in a wide variety of habitats, including woodland chaparral, grassland, deserts, marshes, and even suburban areas.

Appearance: A wide range of color morphs exist in the wild; they are usually found with alternating dark and light bands ranging in color from black and white to brown and cream.

Diet: California kingsnakes are opportunistic feeders and common food items include rodents, birds, other reptiles and amphibians. The “king” in their name refers to their propensity to hunt and eat other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes; California kingsnakes are naturally resistant to the venom of rattlesnakes.

Bite: They are considered harmless to humans, but if handled it is common for this species to bite, as well as excrete musk and fecal contents


Close up of an Eastern Coachwhip (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Ranges across the entire southern United States. Coachwhips are commonly found in open areas with sandy soil, open pine forests, old fields and prairies. They thrive in sandhill scrub and coastal dunes.

Appearance: They vary greatly in color, but most reflect a proper camouflage for their natural habitat. They have thin bodies with small heads and large eyes

Diet: Lizards, small brids, rodents

Bite: Can be painful, but harmless unless it goes untreated

Garter Snake

There are several different types of Garter across the United States and in California including; Common, Northwestern, Checkered, Giant and Two-striped.

Checkered Garter Snake

Very close-up shot of Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) on rocky soil. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found near water in grasslands and deserts

Appearance: Green with a checkered pattern down its back

Diet: Small frogs, toads, small fish and earthworms

Bite: Has a mild neurotoxic venom that is nonlethal to humans

Common Garter Snake

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a species of natricine snake, which is indigenous to North America and found widely across the continent. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Indigenous to North America

Appearance: Yellow stripes on a black, brown or green background

Diet: Mice and other small rodents

Bite: Can cause slight itching and/or swelling in humans

Giant Garter Snake

A unique close-up of a wild Garter snake as it climbs up the vertical trunk of a tall Palm tree in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville, Florida. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found in the wetlands of the Sacramento Valley, but are rather rare

Appearance: Have a yellow dorsal stripe against a black or dark gray background and two additional yellow stripes on either side that run the length of its body

Diet: Fish, frogs and tadpoles

Bite: Its venom is harmless to humans but may cause itchiness and/or a rash in the bite area

Northwestern Garter Snake

Northwestern Garter Snake common in the Pacific Northwest garden closeup macro (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: California, Oregon and Washington

Appearance: Is one of the most varied species of snakes in the world

Diet: Slugs, salamanders and frogs

Two-striped Garter Snake

Common Garter Snake in an Aggressive Pose along the Bridalveil falls trail in Kagawong, Ontario on Manitoulin Island (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Mainly found in central California and Baja California. Is highly aquatic and prefers a habitat near to permanent or semi-permanent bodies of water 

Appearance: Has a yellow lateral stripe on each side

Diet: Fish and amphibians

Glossy Snake

(Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Normally found in semi-arid grasslands between California and Kansas

Appearance: Have a similar appearance to the Gopher Snake, but are smaller with narrow and point heads.

Diet: small lizards

Gopher Snake

The Pacific gopher snake is a subspecies of large nonvenomous colubrid snake native to the western coast of the United States. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Much of the western United States, northern Mexico and southwest Canada

Appearance: Yellow or pale brown with large brown or black blotches and smaller dark spots on the side. Their appearance is similar to rattlesnakes, but they do not have black and white banding on its tail like a rattlesnake

Diet: rodents and lizards

Bite: Gopher snakes do not bite with an open mouth but rather use their blunt nose to strike would-be attackers.

Ground Snake

A small ground snake photographed in the evening near Big Bend National Park. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found throughout North American, but are typically found in dry, rocky areas with loose soil.

Appearance: Can be brown, red or orange with black banding or orange or brown striping

Diet: Eat primarily spiders, scorpions, centipedes, crickets and insect larvae

Long-nosed Snake

Habitat: They can be found throughout much of central and southern California. The preferred natural habitats of the long-nosed snake are desert, grassland, shrubland, and savanna.

Appearance:  It is tricolor, vaguely resembling a coral snake with black and red saddling that almost looks like banding, on a yellow or cream-colored background, which can look somewhat like yellow banding.

Diet: It feeds on lizards, amphibians, and sometimes smaller snakes and infrequently rodents.

North American Racer

A close-up of a Southern Black Racer coiled up on dirt road in Florida. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Found near water, brush, trash piles, roadsides and swamps

Appearance: Solid-colored with a white, light-tan or yellow-colored belly

Diet: Small rodents, frogs, toads, lizards and other snakes

Pacific Ringneck Snake

Santa Clara County, California, USA. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Habitat: Can be found in woodlands, rocky hillsides, and wetter environments with an abundant cover or woody debris across much of the United States, including the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and California coast.

Appearance: Dorsal coloration is solid olive, brown, bluish-gray to smoke black. Broken only by a distinct yellow, red or yellow-orange neckband 

Diet: smaller salamanders, earthworms and slugs

Bite: Incredibly harmless

Rubber Boa

Habitat: Live along the pacific coast to western Utah and Montana

Appearance: Has loose wrinkled skin with small scales that are smooth and shiny

Diet: Shrew, voles and mice

Bite: It is one of the most docile snakes and is used to help people overcome their fear of snakes

Sharp Tail Snake

Habitat: Located largely in the Sacramento Valley

Appearance: Distinguished by its sharp tail spine that can range in color from gray-brown to brick red

Diet: slugs and slug eggs

Bite: Its spine is non-toxic and not lethal to humans

Western Black-headed Snake

Habitat: Common in most of California and can be found as far out as Utah and Texas. It lives in mostly moist pockets in mostly arid or semiarid environments and spends much of its life underground.

Appearance: Brown, slender, olive-gray with a black-headed bordered with a white collar

Diet: Arthropods, particularly centipedes and beetle larvae, as well as spiders, insects, slugs, and earthworms.