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It is not uncommon to encounter snakes while in the outdoors. What is uncommon is for people to react to the presence of a snake with calm. Most people fear snakes because they do not understand them or their importance in the natural world. While several species are potentially dangerous to humans, most are harmless creatures that form vital links in their ecosystems as highly efficient predators of rodents. Common sense is the best protection against dangerous species when afield: watch where you place your hands, where you place your feet, and where you sit. If you find a snake LEAVE IT ALONE! Purchase a field guide for identification of the various species. Enjoy the outdoors by learning more about these fascinating animals.

Snakes are reptiles of the order Squamata, closely related to lizards. They are cold-blooded, limbless, scaly and narrow-bodied; some are venomous.


Common Snakes

Also see:

Mojave Desert Shrubs - Desert Plants
Snake Weed, Gutierrezia sp. Sunflower. Golden Bush, Haplopappus sp. Sunflower. Cheese Bush, Hymenoclea salsola, Sunflower. Mohave Aster, ...

Cactus-Yucca Scrub - Desert Habitats
This snake is most active at night and in the early morning but be careful where you place your hands and feet at all times. ...

Wildlife of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite has a diverse snake fauna with thirteen species recorded in the park. ... Of the thirteen species of snakes found in Yosemite, only the western ...

Chloride City Ghost Town - Death Valley
In 1871, August Franklin killed a snake, looked down and found some rich looking float. He and his partners followed the rich looking ore on up to its ...

Desert Ecosystems
Yucca night lizards may then eat the termites but fall prey themselves to an owl or snake. As the Joshua tree continues to decompose, stinkbugs may nibble ...

Mojave Desert
Occasionally, a lizard on a rock will push himself away from the burning desert floor, a snake will hide in the stingey shade. ...

Ash Meadows
Some snakes and larger lizards begin emerging from hibernation including gopher snake, common kingsnake, desert spiny, western whiptail, and zebra-tailed ...

Wildlife at Hoover Dam
They are ground dwellers that hunt lizards, snakes, birds, ... You may find this snake in areas where mesquite, creosote and cacti are prominent. ...

Great Basin
The Great Basin is a large, arid region of the western ...Rattlesnakes and Gopher snakes are also present. Shorebirds such as Phalaropes and Curlews can be found in wet areas. American White Pelicans are common at ...

Tree of Life, the Joshua Tree
The spotted night snake crawls among the dead tree limbs searching for its favorite prey- yucca night lizards. < Previous - Next > ...

Riparian Habitat of Grand Canyon Wildlife
Many snake species, which are not directly dependent on surface water, ... Since many snakes feed on lizards, higher prey densities along the river probably ...

Creosote Bush: Indian Cove
Desert Indians used creosote bush to treat various ills including stiff limbs, sores, snake bites, menstrual cramps, and congestion. ...

Grand Canyon Wildlife - Reptiles
Many snake species, which are not directly dependent on surface water, ... Since many snakes feed on lizards, higher prey densities along the river probably ...

Pack Rat: Desert Wash Environment
You should see evidence of several pack rat nests along the trail but be aware that those in rock piles may conceal a snake escaping the desert heat. ...


List of California Mojave Desert Snakes

Lichanura trivergata gracia - Desert Rosy Boa
Arizona elegans eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans candida - Mojave Glossy Snake
Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis - Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Chionactis occipitalis talpina - Nevada Shovel-nosed Snake
Coluber (Masticophis) flagellum piceus - Red Racer (Red Coachwhip)
Coluber (Masticophis) taeniatus taeniatus - Striped Whipsnake
Hypsiglena torquata deserticola - Desert Nightsnake
Lampropeltis getula californiae - California Kingsnake
Phyllorhynchus decurtatus - Leaf-nosed Snake
Pituophis catenifer deserticola - Great Basin Gopher Snake
Rheinocheilus lecontei - Long-nosed Snake
S. h. mojavensis - Mohave Patch-nosed Snake
Sonora semiannulata semiannulata - Groundsnake
Tantilla hobartsmithi - Smith's Black-headed Snake
Trimorphodon biscutatus lambda - Sonoran Lyresnake
Trimorphodon biscutatus - lyrophanes - Baja California Lyresnake
Crotalus atrox - Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Crotalus cerastes cerastes - Mohave Desert Sidewinder
Crotalus cerastes laterorepens - Colorado Desert Sidewinder
Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus - Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Crotalus stephensi - Panamint Rattlesnake
Northern Mohave Rattlesnake - Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus
Leptotyphlops humilis humilis - Southwestern Threadsnake (Blind Snake)

Gopher snake

California Snake Facts
  • 33 species of snakes in California
  • 6 venomous species (18% of total) in California, all rattlesnakes
  • 8,000 cases of envenomation per year in North America, only 10-15 fatalities
  • in many snakes the left lung is reduced or absent
  • some snakes lay eggs and others give birth to live young
  • rattlesnakes give birth to live young
  • venom is a prey immobilization adaptation in snakes, defense is secondary
  • venom is 90% protein
  • venom is composed of neurotoxins (attack nervous system) and/or hemotoxins (attack circulatory system)
  • neurotoxins in gila monsters, coral snakes (not in CA), Mojave rattlers
  • snakes can meter dosage of venom to prey

    Venom facts for rattlesnakes found in California

    Sidewinder -- Venom is of moderate toxicity. Human lethal dose is 40 mg and people have died from envenomation. Average venom delivered per bite is 20-63 mg. Venom is still lethal to mice and cats after 27 years of storage. Venom causes deep tissue necrosis at site of bite.

    Speckled rattlesnake -- Venom is very potent. Minimum lethal dosage for 350 gram pigeon is 0.002-0.04 mg, for mice 0.05-0.12 mg. Adults contain up to 227 mg of venom (dry weight) but inject 0.16 mg. Dried venom potency undiminished after 27 years storage.

    Red diamond rattlesnake -- Long fangs (over 1/2 inch). Low in toxicity compared to other rattlesnakes but this is a large species capable of delivering large amounts of venom. Lethal dose for people is about 100 mg and 150-350 mg (up to 1.65 ml) is delivered per bite. People have died from envenomation. Lethality of venom decreases only slightly after 27 years, producing complete neuromuscular block of a cat diaphragm in 22 minutes. Tissue damaging properties of venom are 6-15 times greater in adults than juveniles. In one case history an adult man spent 9 days in the hospital (antivenom was administered) following a bite to the leg and was able to walk almost normally in two weeks.

    Southern Pacific rattlesnake (western rattlesnake) -- Venom primarily hemorrhagic (affecting blood) but some subspecies contain neurotoxic components. Toxicity of venom is greater than some larger species such as the western diamondback. This coupled with the high irritability of some individuals makes this a dangerous snake. Hemorrhagic, neurologic and proteolytic activity can all result from the same bite. Hemorrhagic activity in 18 minutes accompanied by some paralysis. Death in untreated cases may occur in 18 hours or up to 5 days. Lethal venom dose for humans is 70-160 mg and adults can produce up to 112 mg of venom (dried). Dried venom toxic to mice for at least 27 years.

    Western diamond back rattlesnake -- Fangs over 1/2 inch in length. Venom highly hemorrhagic. 53% of the enzymes cause breakdown of the circulatory system, 17% are neurotoxic, and 30% digest proteins. Hemorrhaging from vascular breakdown occurs in only 6 minutes. Stored venom loses little potency after 17 years. Lethal dose to humans is about 100 mg and snakes may contain up to 300 mg (dried). One snake yielded 1,145 mg (3.9 ml liquid)! This species probably responsible for more human deaths than any other snake in the U.S. Symptoms following bites include intense burning, vomiting, breathing difficulties, lowered blood pressure, increased heart rate, and secondary gangrene infection.

    Mojave rattlesnake -- Neurotoxic venom is extremely virulent (10 times more toxic than any other rattlesnake in the U.S.) affecting heart, skeletal muscles and neuromuscular junctions. Once bite sufficient to kill a human: lethal dose is only 10-15 mg and one adult can yield 141 mg (dried). Death occurs in a high frequency of untreated cases.

    For additional information see Ernst, C.H. 1992. Venomous reptiles of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

    Source -- USGS
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