Arizona is home to a remarkable 59 native snake species. The Grand Canyon State is among the states with the greatest diversity of indigenous snake species. Additionally, a small number of non-native species have made this state their home.
There are poisonous snakes among them, but there are also non-venomous varieties. Some of them are even well-liked pets. But they all share one thing in common: they all reside in Arizona and play a significant role in maintaining its ecology.
There is a lot to comprehend given that the State is home to around fifty distinct species of snake. So let’s get started right away!
Arizona Milk Snake
Arizona milk snakes, like other milk snakes, might at first seem frightful because to their striking resemblance to poisonous coral snakes in terms of color pattern. Knowing the distinction between a milk snake and a coral snake is crucial if you’re in Arizona since the latter has venom. Similar to coral snakes, milk snakes have broad red bands.
You can identify if a snake is a milk snake or a coral snake by looking at the color next to those bands. Milk snakes have larger white bands following the black bands and narrow black bands close to the red bands.
Yellow bands will be seen adjacent to red bands on a coral snake. If you observe a snake with red bands outdoors that has black bands adjacent to the red bands and is in a tree or leaf litter, it is a milk snake, and there is no threat.
Arizona Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake
Arizona’s official state reptile is the Arizona Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi willardi)! However, because these timid and solitary rattlesnakes are tiny and prefer to reside high in the Arizona highlands, interactions with humans are uncommon, and bites are much less often.
The precise mechanisms by which the venom of the Arizona Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake kills its victim are unknown due to the dearth of documented medical data. There haven’t been any reported cases of Arizona Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake venom-related fatalities, though.
One of the few bites that was documented and involved a subject who was well-versed in snake research as well as photographic documentation of the snake caused just swelling and discomfort; after receiving regular antivenin dosages, the person recovered in just three days.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
The western diamondback rattlesnake, a native of Arizona, has the record for the most snake-related fatalities in the US (not something we’d gloat about, to be honest).
It primarily lives in the southwest of the continent and isn’t very particular about where it lives. The western diamondback may be found living everywhere that has access to small animals like mice, rats, prairie dogs, squirrels, and the like, from deserts to pine-oak woods.
This snake’s venom acts by damaging the tissues of its victim, including the heart, veins, and muscles. There is a 10–20% possibility that a bite may result in human death if it is not treated.
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Small animals including squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, prairie dogs, rabbits, mice, and rats are the main sources of food for the Western Diamond-backed. They eat nearby flying birds as well. They ambush their victim and pursue them while the venom takes effect, much like other pit vipers do.
These snakes generally defend their territory when threatened. They coil and rattle as they rise off the ground to be ready to attack.
Aim to exit the area carefully if you hear their distinctive rattle. These snakes can inject a lot of poison in one bite because to their unique fangs and enormous venom glands! If you are bitten, get to the hospital since untreated bites have a 10-to-20% death risk.
In terms of size and color, glossy snakes resemble gopher snakes. They enjoy dry desert settings and may grow up to five feet long on average. Glossy snakes come in a variety of hues, but they are all light and appear to have lost some of their color due to the sun.
Depending on the region, they can be light gray, light tan, light brown, or light green. Because these snakes are nocturnal, you usually won’t encounter them during the day. However, if you go on a trek in the early morning or at night when it’s colder, you could glimpse a glossy snake.
Sonoran Coral Snake
Another solitary snake with vivid red, black, and yellow stripes is the Sonoran coral snake, sometimes called the Arizona coral snake or the Western coral snake. They may kill a person within hours after a bite because to their powerful venom, which targets the neurological system.
From 1967, the year an antivenin was created, until 2006, when an untreated patient passed away, there were no known deaths from coral snake bites. Though the antivenin hasn’t been manufactured commercially since 2003, don’t relax just yet.
The final vials were all destroyed in 2008. So, pay attention to the ground and bear in mind that when red meets yellow, someone dies.
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
From light gray to crimson, the southwestern speckled rattlesnake comes in a range of hues. Although keeping this species as a pet is prohibited in Arizona, the phenomena is assumed to have its roots in the snake’s drive to fit in with its environment.
In fact, several color variations of the species are now regarded as “collectibles” due to their popularity as pets. This is mostly accurate for specimens with lighter coloring. Fortunately, it appears that the tendency has not yet caused the species to become endangered.
Young southwestern speckled rattlesnakes like nibbling on other reptiles, primarily lizards, but adults prefer to eat small animals. This species’ venom is not as poisonous as the western diamondback’s, but it is still not benign.
The Hopi Rattlesnake, commonly known as the Arizona Prairie Rattlesnake, is a subspecies of the Prairie Rattlesnake. The Hopi tribe of Native Americans, who also live in the area, gave them their name.
These poisonous snakes may be found in the arid plains of eastern Arizona. Even at altitudes of up to 9500 feet, they are to be found!
During the winter, the Prairie Rattlesnake hibernates, frequently in group dens. Usually, these dens are caves, rock fissures, or former animal burrows. Each winter, each snake will return to the same cave, and in the spring, each snake will travel up to seven kilometers to its hunting grounds.
These snakes will freeze when they sense danger and attempt to hide by disguising themselves. They could also stealthily creep away to hide. They may coil and rattle their tail to warn off an approaching predator before charging. Although uncommon, its strong venom, which possesses hemotoxic and neurotoxic effects, may be lethal to an adult person.
Desert King Snake
Due to their thick bodies and length, desert king snakes may appear to be a menace. Although they usually measure closer to five feet long, they can grow up to six feet long. However, desert king snakes are generally calm and tend to stay away from people.
A desert king snake will often try to escape if it encounters you. However, if you don’t move, it can try to seem to be dead by rolling onto its back and resting there unmoving until you do.
Grand Canyon Rattlesnake
The Grand Canyon Rattlesnake is unique to Arizona and Utah, living up to its name. This pit viper appears in a variety of hues, from reddish and pink to gray, and has spots along its back.
Despite being restricted to Arizona and Utah, it may be found there in a variety of habitats, including woods, cliff sides, grasslands, and, of course, the region around the rims and floor of the Grand Canyon.
Northern Black-Tailed Rattlesnake
This species is distinguished by the black scales that surround the rattle on its tail, as the name would imply. It has a broad range of colors, much as the first item on the list. For instance, black-tailed rattlesnakes in the Phoenix area typically have brown coloring with streaks of yellow or green.
The black-tailed rattlesnake’s behavior varies throughout the course of a year. They tend to be more active during the day in the spring and fall, but they become nocturnal in the summer to avoid the heat (yes, the Arizona sun is too much even for cold-blooded reptiles). They hibernate in the winter.
This species excels in movement, if there is anything. They will either sidewind it or proceed straight forward, depending on the kind of terrain they’re on. They are also excellent climbers and even better swimmers.
One of the tiniest poisonous snakes in the nation is the Western Massasauga, a rattlesnake. In addition to open sagebrush prairie, rocky slopes, prairie hillsides, open wetlands, and grassy wetlands, they are most commonly found in grassland environments.
Instead of rattling when discovered, they frequently freeze. Western Massasaugas do, however, rattle, and it is a unique sound. This little snake is known as a “buzz tail” because of the fact that its rattle is noticeably higher pitched than that of larger rattlesnakes.
Despite the great potency of its venom, compared to bigger poisonous snakes, their bites are significantly less likely to be lethal to people due to the tiny amount they give. You must still exercise caution around them, though, since their venom is hemotoxic and will result in localized swelling, excruciating agony, and necrosis. If bitten, you should seek medical help right away!
Blackneck Garter Snake
Blackneck garter snakes may be found in central and southeast Arizona, usually next to a body of water. Black-necked snakes are frequently gathered close to ponds, streams, or lakes in Arizona since it might be difficult to find water sources there.
They could also be in the yards of houses with outdoor water features. The majority of blackneck snakes have thin, narrow bodies and range in length from four to five feet.
A black-necked garter snake’s basic color is a dark olive, and it has black blotches and either white or orange stripes. This snake has a black ring around its neck.
Arizona Black Rattlesnake
Northwest Arizona’s Hualapai Mountains and Cottonwood Cliffs are home to the Arizona Black Rattlesnake, or Crotalus cerberus.
Despite having the widespread label “black,” they really range in color from reddish-brown to black. As they mature, they undergo a color shift, becoming darker in hue and less patterned. Some adults even possess the rapid color shifting capabilities of chameleons!
Wait till you encounter the tiger rattlesnake if you thought the western diamondback was frightening. This species possesses the second-most lethal rattlesnake venom, while not being as prolific killers. The good news is that it doesn’t create a lot of it—for humans, not the snake.
The moniker “tiger stripes” comes from the markings on the snake’s back that become less distinct as they go closer to the head. The species has the smallest head among rattlesnakes, speaking of heads. However, its rattling has the potential to be rather loud.
Even though this species is not regarded as endangered, urbanization is gradually reducing its natural habitat. Additionally, rattlesnake skin and rattles are offered for sale as mementos. The status of the species might change as a result in the future.
Terrestrial Garter Snake
Even skilled herpetologists run into problems! There are thought to be six subspecies, however experts continue to argue this, and its colour varies greatly.
Grasslands and woodlands are two of the many environments used by terrestrial garter snakes. Even in hilly regions up to 13,000 feet above sea level, they can be found. They are mainly found on land, as their name indicates. Interesting yet, these garter snakes can swim really well!
The only garter snake species in Arizona that has a propensity to restrict prey is this one! The majority of garter snakes rapidly snare their food and just devour it, occasionally rubbing it against the ground.
Although they are not aggressive or dangerous, terrestrial garter snakes do have saliva that contains a small amount of venom. It could even damage some muscle tissue or infect the muscles. Human bites often only result in minor swelling and discomfort.
Sonoran Gopher Snake
Although Sonoran gopher snakes are typically only approximately four feet long, their large bodies give them the appearance of being much longer. Because their main food source is rats and mice, which they kill through constriction, they have extremely hefty bodies.
In Arizona, gopher snakes are common. They may be found all across the state, from Santa Cruz County to Fort Huachuca. Sonoran gopher snakes often have fading brown or brownish-red patterns and range in color from brown to tan.
Red Racers is a friendly term for red coachwhips. They are as quick as their name suggests. These snakes are non-venomous foragers that pursue lizards, other snakes, insects, and birds while moving at speeds of up to four miles per hour.
Although scientists have recorded them eating rodents and amphibians, they prefer to consume lizards, thus this is an unusual occurrence.
The term “sidewinder rattlesnake” refers to the snake’s distinctive mode of propulsion. In order to go sideways, sidewinding involves bending the body into S and J forms. This facilitates the snake’s movement on sandy terrain and guarantees that no portion of its body touches the heated earth for a lengthy period of time.
The sidewinder is easily identified by its “horns,” which are elevated scales over its eyes that are intended to shield the eyes from the sun and sand, in addition to its peculiar movement. The species often has a white belly and is colored cream, brown, or gray to match its environment. The temperature may also cause them to change hue.
During the summer, the sidewinder is mostly a nocturnal species, whereas the rest of the year it is a diurnal species. Young snakes utilize their tail to entice prey, primarily lizards, but adult snakes primarily consume rodents.
You may find them in forests, meadows, marshes, deserts, and even in suburbs. The most of the year, these California Kingsnakes are spotted during the day, with the exception of the winter months when they retreat underground and go into a state similar to hibernation known as brumation.
Do you know the origin of the term “king” for kingsnakes?
It alludes to their capacity to pursue and consume other snakes! Amazingly, deadly rattlesnakes will even be pursued by California Kingsnakes.
This species has an amazing adaption that allows it to choke its victim. In actuality, considering their body size, California Kingsnakes have the tightest squeeze. Since their primary diet consists of other reptiles, which don’t need as much oxygen as mammals do, it is believed that they evolved this feature.