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Are There Water Snakes in Alaska?

While Alaska is home to many animals, no water snakes can be found in the state. In fact, along with Hawaii, Alaska is one of only two states that doesn’t have any snakes at all! Alaska is also absent of most other reptiles, like lizards. Sea turtles are the only reptile species native to Alaska.

Why is Alaska absent of water snakes and other reptiles? Many factors contribute to the lack of snakes in Alaska, including its location and its cold climate. Keep reading to learn more about why you can’t find snakes in this northwestern state.

Why Are There No Snakes In Alaska?

Snakes
Snake slithering | Image by Alois Wonaschütz from Pixabay

Snakes are cold-blooded animals, which means they can’t control their body temperature. Instead, they rely on environmental sources of warmth, like the sun, for heat. In extremely cold climates like Alaska, snakes aren’t able to keep themselves warm, making it difficult for them to survive and reproduce.

Another factor contributing to the absence of snakes in Alaska is the lack of suitable habitats. While snake species can thrive in a variety of habitats, the rugged, inhospitable terrain in Alaska makes it a poor environment for most snakes. Many of the animals snakes prey on, such as small mammals and amphibians, are also rare in Alaska, limiting access to food.

In addition, Alaska is isolated from other regions where snakes are found. Due to this, snakes haven’t been able to travel to the state and populate the area. The snake populations that are nearest to Alaska can be found in southern Canada. This region has some water snakes, such as the northern water snake.

Have Snakes Ever Been Found In Alaska?

Although Alaska is considered to be a snake-free state, there have been a few sightings of snakes over the years. These incidents usually occur after a snake escapes from captivity. For example, in 2017, a Burmese python escaped its cage and roamed the Wasila area. The snake was eventually reunited with its owner.

There’s also a semi-aquatic snake species that has been repeatedly seen in the Alaskan panhandle area: the common garter snake. While a garter snake population has yet to be officially confirmed, it’s possible that invasive species have been released in this part of the state. Currently, there have never been confirmed sightings of true water snakes in any part of Alaska.

Are There Other Areas with No Snakes?

Scenic view of Napali coast on Kauai
Scenic view of Napali coast on Kauai | Image by TC Perch from Pixabay

Like Alaska, Hawaii is completely free of snakes. Although Hawaii’s warm weather is suitable for snakes, this state is cut off from the mainland, which means snakes don’t have a way to travel there. One type of snake, the yellow-bellied sea snake, has swam to the waters of Hawaii, but it’s not a native species.

Other parts of the world that are free of snakes include Ireland and New Zealand. Many cold regions, including Antarctica and Greenland, are absent of snakes, just like Alaska. There are also several islands without snake populations, such as the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.

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Where Are Water Snakes Found?

Plain-bellied water snake
Plain-bellied water snake | image by Northeast Coastal & Barrier Network via Flickr | CC-SA 2.0

Even though water snakes can’t be found in Alaska, they can be seen in many other parts of North America. There are nine species of water snake in total, including the plainbelly water snake and the Brazos water snake. All species are primarily aquatic and spend the bulk of their time living in bodies of water.

True water snakes are widely distributed across North America. While they’re primarily found in southern and eastern regions of the U.S., species can also be found in other regions, including the Midwest and the waters around the Mississippi. Populations stretch north into Canada and can be found as far south as Mexico.

Most species prefer to live in smaller, shallow bodies or water, including swamps, marshes, ponds, and lakes. It’s also common to find them near rivers, streams, and creeks. When they leave the water, they’re often seen basking on rocks or in the branches of trees. Although water snakes will feed on small mammals, the bulk of their diet consists of aquatic prey, such as salamanders, frogs, and fish.

Will There Ever Be Snakes In Alaska?

Due to its cold weather and lack of sunlight, Alaska is a poor habitat for nearly all species of snake, including water snakes. Although there are no confirmed populations of snakes in any part of the state, there have been repeated snake sightings, especially in the Panhandle region and in Southern Alaska.

Some experts believe that these snakes are relic populations, meaning that Alaska may have had snake populations in the past. While it’s possible that snakes will migrate to Alaska in the future, it’s unlikely that we’ll see water snakes or other species in Alaskan waters anytime soon. If you’re not a fan of snakes, Alaska is a safe place to explore!