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San Francisco - Animals

Snakes of Southern California

Ever wonder what the difference is between the snakes in Southern California?

There are basically 4 snakes:

Gopher snake
California King Snake
Garter snake

Notice, the Gopher looks almost exactly like the Rattlesnake. The only real difference to the layperson is the head and the tail. The Garter's marking are odd when one considers the terrain, and colouring.


Rattlesnakes are California's only venomous serpents, but they are also beautiful and fascinating reptiles. All Viewing should be done at a very safe distance. According to traditional taxonomy (e.g., Stebbins 2003, Crother et al. 2001) there are just six species, all in the genus Crotalus:

  • Western C. viridis
  • Western Diamondback C. atrox
  • Red Diamondback C. ruber
  • Sidewinder C. cerastes
  • Speckled C. mitchellii
  • Mojave C. scutulatus

Gopher snake
(looks very much like a Rattlesnake)

Garter snake
(think of the long yellow lines as garter belts)

California King Snake
(Loves to eat rattlesnakes)

Valuable in controlling rodents and venomous snakes. Presence of king snake nearly assures absence of rattlers in area. In the presence of a king snake a rattler will neither strike nor rattle, but will lay with head low and raise center part of its body in a loop, with which it will strike heavy blows to the king snake.

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