Most discussions of Utah snakes begin with the warning beware of rattlesnakes. Of the sixteen species recorded in the United States, seven live in Utah. All areas of the state are covered with at least one species.
The first shows the Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) a Southwest species.
Stopping with the venomous Utah snakes would be a mistake because the state also hosts about two dozen nonlethal snakes that any tourist might want to add to their lifelist.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Growing up to eight feet long, the Masticophis genus of snakes called Coachwhip snakes, or whip snakes, get their name from their long, whip like appearance. Snake taxonomy changes.
Utah is home to three species. Red Racers or Whipsnakes (Masticophis flagellum) rank as the most common species, with subspecies living in states from Florida, west to California. The name Red Racer can be a bit misleading. Many of the subspecies have different color patterns from red to yellow to brown to dark to tan. Body color in these snakes is very much a function of geography and climate.
Striped Whipsnakes (Masticophis taeniatus) range through most of the Southwest, and as far north as the Oregon border.
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States.
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes
The kingsnake and milksnake genera becomes a bit more diverse as one heads from East to West in the United States. Utah hosts a nice combination of three of these snakes:
- California King Snakes
- Central Plains Milksnake (Lampropeltis gentilis)
- Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana)
The black body covered with white bands makes for a fairly easy identification for the California Kingsnake. extend their range a bit into Utah. They lack the color of other King Snake species with a primarily black body covered with white bands.
The black-necked gartersnake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis) is typically described as a Southwest species. Their range extends from Texas to California along the border. Some neighboring states such as Oklahoma and Ut ah.
Subspecies have slight color differences. The presence of the black color on the neck unites them.
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.
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.
This is the Common Gartersnake.
Eleven species of Black-head Snakes have been recorded to date in the United States. They are all regionally based and all but three species have some type of connection with the Southwest.
A dark of black head contrasted against a different color body is the physical characteristic tying all the species together. Utah hosts the Smith’s Black-headed Snake (Tantilla hobartsmithi).
Utah Snakes: More Colubrids
- Western Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis)
- Groundsnake (Sonora semiannulata)
- Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
- Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus)
- Sonoran Lyresnake (Trimorphodon lambda)
- Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
- Long-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
- Bullsnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus)
- Desert Nightsnake (Hypsiglena chlorophaea)
- Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
- Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi)
Northern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)
Western Threadsnake (Rena humilis)