How to Identify Red, Black and White Snake Species in the Central Valley of California


Snake identification is a fun but potentially dangerous hobby. Snakes in the Central California Valley range from harmless gartersnakes to poisonous rattlesnakes. Among the hardest snakes to identify, though, are the banded snakes. Banded snakes come in a variety of colors, but the most prominent colors in California are red, black, white and yellow. Examples of snakes with the banded pattern are the mountain kingsnake, the shovel-nosed snake, the ground snake and the long-nosed snake.

  • Note the pattern of colors on the snake. Do the colors go from red to black to white, or from black to red to white? The California mountain kingsnake color pattern goes from white to black to red to black to white. The shovel-nosed snake pattern looks similar to the mountain kingsnake's, but instead of white, the shovel-nosed is yellow and all bands are the same size.

  • Observe how thick the bands are. Are the color bands all small and skinny, or are some thicker than others? The red bands on a California Mountain Kingsnake are much thicker than the white or black bands, while the bands on a pale long-nosed snake are roughly equal in thickness.

  • Identify which colors are included in the pattern. Some types of California snakes are only white and black, or red and black, or red, black and yellow instead of white. The shovel-nosed snake looks similar to the California mountain kingsnake, but instead of white bands, the shovel-nosed snake's bands are yellow. It can be sometimes hard to tell white from yellow, so be sure you know what you're looking at.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many snakes in central California are venomous, including the various types of rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake patterns don't include red, black or white and are more of a brown and tan in a diamond pattern. If you see this type of snake or hear the warning rattle, use caution.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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