The Types of Rattlesnakes in San Diego


Four species of rattlesnakes live in San Diego County. They constitute the only poisonous snakes in the region, and live in a wide range of habitats, from suburban bushes to mountainous scrub bush and grasslands. Three of these species live in the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, a hiking and outdoors destination. Though rattlesnakes don't go after humans, they attack when provoked and should be considered extremely dangerous. Wearing high boots and long pants in rattlesnake areas protects from bites.

Red Diamond Rattlesnake

  • The red diamond rattlesnake reaches lengths of 9 inches to 5.5 feet and commonly lives among the chaparral, or rocky, scrub dominated regions of San Diego County. Red diamond rattlesnakes bear reddish brown or reddish orange diamonds outlined in cream down their backs and have alternating black and white bands near the rattle. The rattlesnakes sun themselves on rocks and sandy patches such as trails in hiking areas of coastal San Diego County. The red diamond rattlesnake is California's largest snake species, and it avoids areas with dense human populations.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

  • The most common of San Diego County's four rattlesnakes, the southern pacific, also known as the western rattlesnake, can be found in public parks, housing developments and beaches. These snakes feed primarily on small reptiles, mammals and birds and often sun themselves on rocky outcroppings in prairies or grassland areas. Southern Pacific rattlesnake ranges in length from 6 inches to 5 feet and bear brown and black splotches on their skin, which range in hue from green to black.

Southern Speckled Rattlesnake

  • The southern speckled rattlesnake, the least common species in San Diego County, expresses a strong diversion to human presence. These rarely seen snakes live amidst the Cuyamaca Mountains and its foothills and the deserts located to the east of the mountains. Southern speckled rattlesnakes live in a broad range of locations from Nevada to San Diego to Mexico. The snakes commonly make their homes in, on and around rocky, granite outcroppings. These snakes are cream or tan colored, with random bands of black and white accent.

Colorado Desert Sidewinder

  • The smallest species of San Diego County rattlesnake, the Colorado sidewinder reaches a mature length of 2 feet and lives exclusively in the desert. It is the only species of San Diego rattlesnake that does not live in the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve. The color of the Colorado desert sidewinder ranges from pale cream to tan, brown, pink or gray. These snakes bear distinct dark blotches on their backs that resemble individual vertebrae. The color of a Colorado sidewinder matches the prevalent colors of the environment in which the snake lives.

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