Eleven Idaho snakes have been recorded and often the state’s two rattlesnakes get the most press. Unlike other accounts of state snakes, there’s some method behind the rattlesnake scares in the state. The Western rattlesnake, along with the North American racer, gophersnake and terrestrial gartersnake rank as the most common of Idaho snakes.
Lots of rattlesnakes means a higher possibility of residents crossing paths with them.
It’s a little known fact that the genus Crotalus, or the snakes commonly called rattlesnakes consists of sixteen species. Idaho’s other rattlesnake species, the Prairie Rattlesnake actually do not cause that much damage.
Little seen because of their propensity to remain in burrows, Idaho’s Northern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) is a snake that fits in the same family as the larger and more commonly known constrictors. Rubber Boas grow to about two feet in length.
Please press the snakes button for more pictures and detailed information on snake species. The remainder of this page highlights Idaho’s colubrid snakes, the most common snakes in the state.
Racers and Whipsnakes
Depending on the source a group of snakes commonly known as racers, whipsnakes and coachwhips currently sit in dual genera (Masticophis or Coluber) or the single Coluber genus. Any internet search using either genera will bring up these snakes.
Racers and Whipsnakes share both physical and behavioral characteristics. Most if not all species tend to be comparatively thin and very fast movers.
The snake with the common name Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is applies to a very common US species. In fact eleven different subspecies of (Coluber constrictor) inhabit almost every state in the lower 48 states.
Color is a common name applied to many of the species as well as the Black Racer. Blue Racers, for example are common around the Great Lakes region. Idaho hosts racers throughout most of the state.Their bodies tend to take on green and red hues.
Idaho is also home to the Striped Whipsnakes (Masticophis taeniatus), pictured. It ranges through most of the Southwest, with southern Idaho being its northern most border.
Three different subspecies of the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans) inhabit western North America. The picture shows a typical wandering garter snake skin pattern, characterized by the light color stripes. A close up picture would show the snake’s eight upper labial scales, typical of all Thamnophis elegans subspecies.
They rank as the most common Garter Snake in the state.
Garter snake identification can be a fun activity because they are not aggressive snakes and taking the time to look at one means little personal harm to the observer. Their body color can range from blue, prominent in Florida blue garter snakes, to the many shades of red visible in West Coast species.
The Common Garter Snake in the picture is a rather bland looking species and easy to identify basically because it’s the primary species in most East Coast states. It’s also the most wide ranging of all the garter snakes and found in almost all of the lower 48 states.
More Idaho Colubrid Snakes
Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus) are very hardy snakes found in the northern areas of the United States from coast to coast.
The dual color body, dark on the top and a bright shade of orange or yellow on the bottom serve as the best field identification clues. The picture highlights the snake’s characteristic ring neck mark. While ring-neck snake bites are rare, touching them is not recommended. They can secrete a foul smelling chemical.
Ditto for the Gopher Snakes or Bullsnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus). They are very common and hardy snakes, mostly in the West with a small Midwest population.
The common name bull refers to the very large adults. Because they somewhat resemble rattlesnakes and they tend to bask in the sun, bullsnakes tend to scare people.
In less populated areas such as the rocky mountains, bullsnakes are also common visitors to residential neighborhoods. To relieve any fear that a specimen might be a rattlesnake the first suggestion would be to approach the snake with caution. Even better, if it’s around the home, look out the window and look for a rattle. If no rattle, think Bullsnake. They are generally harmless and in the neighborhood looking for a meal of
Smooth Greensnakes (Opheodrys vernalis) vernalis) are small and hardy snakes that also adapt well to the northern climates of the United States from coast to coast. The name Smooth describe the types of scales on the snake, although a picture is a difficult medium for demonstrating smooth snake scales.
Greensnakes are also referred to as grass snakes because that’s their primary habitat. Their green bodies provide good camouflage as they hunt for their prey, insects. They are Idaho’s only insectivore snakes.
Here’s three additional Idaho snakes:
- Long-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
- Groundsnake (Sonora semiannulata)
- Desert Nightsnake (Hypsiglena chlorophaea)