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Wildlife Viewing

Snakes are long, legless reptiles.

Oregon has 15 native snake species, from the beautifully colored California Mountain kingsnake to the rubber boa, a constrictor. Interestingly, the sharptail snake appears to specialize in feeding on slugs. And did you know that of our native snakes, only the Western rattlesnake has poisonous venom that's dangerous to humans?

ODFW has a fun fact sheet for kids of any age, and a more in-depth brochure, Living with Snakes

Types of Snakes

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Rubber boa

Charina bottae

The rubber boa occurs in a variety of habitats, from desert scrub, foothill woodlands, and grasslands through deciduous and coniferous forests. In the Coast Range, it is found commonly in forest clearings that contain rotting stumps and logs. It is absent from the immediate vicinity of the coast north of Coos Bay.

Rubber boas are constrictors and eat small mammals, especially young mice and shrews.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW

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Racer

Coluber constrictor

The racer is found in a variety of open habitats, including sagebrush flats, juniper woodlands, chaparral, and meadows. It avoids dense forests, high mountains, and very dry areas, and seeks cover under rocks, logs, or dense shrubs

This species feeds on lizards, smaller snakes, frogs, toads, small mammals, birds and their eggs, and some insects. Young racers eat crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW

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Sharptail snake

Contia Tenuis

The sharptail snake is found in moist areas in coniferous forest, deciduous woodlands, chaparral, and grasslands. It frequents open grassy areas at forest edges and usually occurs under the cover of logs, rocks, fallen branches, or talus.

Sharptail snakes appears to specialize in feeding on slugs.

Photo by Calypso Orchid, Flickr

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Ringneck snake

Diadophis punctatus

The ringneck snake requires moist micro-habitats such as downed logs, rocks, or stumps. It is found in a variety of vegetation types, but is most closely associated with pine-oak woodlands and moist canyon bottoms. It also can be abundant in Willamette Valley grasslands.

These snakes feed mainly on small lizards, snakes and salamanders and also slugs, earthworms, frogs, and insects.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW

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Night snake

Hypsiglena torquata

In the Pacific Northwest, the night snake frequents arid desert scrub habitats near rocky outcrops or rimrock. It takes refuge in talus slopes or rocky crevices during the day.

Night snakes tend to feed on cold-blooded prey, especially lizards and their eggs, frogs, toads, salamanders, large insects, and small snakes.

These snakes are primarily nocturnal, and are more active on relatively cool nights of early summer.

Photo by Ken-ichi Ueda, Flickr

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Common kingsnake

Lampropeltis getula

This snake is most common in thick vegetation along water bodies, but ranges into farmland, chaparral, and deciduous and mixed coniferous woodlands in the Rogue and Umpqua river valleys of southwestern Oregon.

Common kingsnakes usually feed on other snakes, but have been known to take small turtles, birds and their eggs, frogs, lizards, reptile eggs, and some small mammals.

Photo by Alan Schmierer, Flickr

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California mountain kingsnake

Lampropeltis zonata

This species is found in pine forests, oak woodlands, and in chaparral of southwestern Oregon valleys. It is usually found in, under, or near rotting logs in open wooded areas near streams.

The California mountain kingsnake preys upon snakes, lizards, birds and their eggs, and some small mammals.

It is an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species in these ecoregions: Coast Range, Columbia Plateau, East Cascades, Klamath Mountains, and West Cascades.

Photo by William Grenfell, Flickr

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Striped whipsnake

Masticophis taeniatus

In the Northwest, this snake is found in grasslands, sagebrush flats, rocky stream courses, and canyon bottoms. Elsewhere it also frequents juniper and pine-oak woodlands. In southwestern Oregon, it is found in dry bushy areas close to rocks.

Young striped whipsnakes feed primarily on lizards and insects. Adults also take snakes, small mammals, young birds, and insects.

Photo by Bryn Hamilton, Flickr

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Gopher snake

Pituophis catenifer

The gopher snake occurs in a wide variety of habitats, from deserts and grasslands to woodlands and open forests. It frequents agricultural regions, especially where there is brushy cover such as fence rows.

Diet varies according to size, with young eating insects, lizards, rodents, and birds and their eggs. Adults can take larger prey, occasionally as large as rabbits.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW

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Western ground snake

Sonora semiannulata

The Western ground snake is found in arid desert scrub vegetation with sandy soil, usually under surface objects or in areas with some surface moisture, such as the edges of washes.

This snake feeds on small arthropods such as spiders, scorpions, centipedes, crickets, and grasshoppers. It also takes insect larvae.

Photo by Peter Paplanus, Flickr

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Pacific coast aquatic garter snake

Thamnophis atratus

This highly aquatic snake is found in wet meadows, riparian areas, marshes, and moist forests near rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. It requires streams with thick riparian vegetation for escape and exposed boulders for basking.

The Pacific coast aquatic garter snake takes aquatic prey such as small fish and fish eggs, salamanders, tadpoles, frogs, toads, earthworms, and leeches.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW

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Western terrestrial garter snake

Thamnophis elegans vagrans

This species is found in a variety of habitats. To make matters more confusing, four subspecies are found in Oregon, each of which has somewhat different habitat preferences. All can be found in moist areas such as marshes and lake or stream margins, but two may occur some distance from water.

The diet varies among subspecies; the more aquatic forms feed on fish, frogs, tadpoles, and leeches, which are eaten in the water. Terrestrial forms take frogs and toads, but also lizards, small mammals, salamanders and slugs.

Photo by David Bronson, ODFW

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Northwestern garter snake

Thamnophis ordinoides

This snake is found in meadows and at the edges of clearings in forests. It prefers areas with dense vegetation but, when basking, can be found in open areas or on talus slopes. It occurs in wooded areas on the floor of the Willamette Valley and has been found in the Rogue Valley. This garter snake is commonly found in suburban areas and city parks.

The Northwestern garter snake feeds mainly on slugs and earthworms, but also takes insects, small salamanders, frogs, fish, small mammals, and possibly nestlings of ground nesting birds.

Photo by J. Maughn, Flickr

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Common garter snake

Thamnophis sirtalis

Much variability in coloration exists in the common garter snake but the best identifying characteristic is a stripe down the middle of the snake's back.

While the common garter snake frequents wet meadows and forest edges, it occurs in a variety of habitats far from water, including open valleys and moist coniferous forest.

Smaller snakes eat earthworms, but adults feed on a variety of vertebrate prey, including frogs, toads, salamanders, birds, fish, reptiles, and small mammals. Invertebrates, including slugs and leeches, are also eaten.

Photo by Dave Budeau, ODFW

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Western rattlesnake

Crotalus viridus

Although they occur in a wide variety of habitat types, from deserts and chaparral to open forests across Oregon, Western rattlesnakes usually occur near rocks, cliffs, or downed logs. They overwinter in dens typically located on south-facing rocky hillsides exposed to sunshine.

Western rattlesnakes feed mainly on small mammals, including mice, gophers, squirrels and rabbits, but will also take birds lizards, and amphibians.

The Western rattlesnake is an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species in the Willamette Valley.

Photo by Simon Wray, ODFW