Types of Snakes in Northern California


In northern California, there are many species of snakes---some of which are venomous, and many of which are not. If you encounter a snake in the wild, leave the snake alone. Back away slowly, or let the snake retreat from you.


  • A rattlesnake can strike at speeds faster than the eye can follow, at a distance of up to two-thirds the length of its total body and it can do so without recoiling. In areas of northern California, there are two species of rattlesnakes: the Great Basin Rattlesnake and the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.

Western Yellow-bellied Racer

  • When they are young, Western Yellow-bellied Racers have dark spots and markings on their tops and sides, but as adults these snakes are olive, gray or brown on top and yellow on bottom. The juveniles look so different from adults that at one time, they were thought to be two different species of snakes.

Sharp-tailed snakes

  • Sharp-tailed snakes literally have sharp spines that result in a pointed tip at the end of their tail. These snakes eat slugs and salamanders but are harmless to humans.

Northwestern Ring-necked Snake

  • The Northwestern Ring-necked Snake is colorful, especially on its underside. When disturbed, it coils up and reveals its bright red or orange underbelly and it may even smear feces or musk.


  • These snakes are so named because they eat other snakes, but to humans they are generally gentle. They are frequently kept as pets. In northern California, they come in varieties like Sierra Mountain Kingsnake, California Kingsnake and St. Helena Mountain Kingsnake.

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