The Sagebrush State has a lot to offer – the Sierra Nevada mountain range, desert scrub, and the Mojave Desert. These dry deserts with dramatic temperature extremes are prime habitat for many different species of animals, including snakes. Keep reading to learn more about the semi-aquatic and terrestrial snake species that inhabit Nevada.
Are There Water Snakes in Nevada?
There are no water snakes of the genus Nerodia in Nevada. Most water snakes live in the eastern United States. Nevada is a dry state with thousands of square miles of deserts. The inhospitable conditions combined with cold winters make this state less than ideal for water snakes.
Semi-Aquatic Snakes in Nevada
Even though there are no true water snakes in Nevada, the state is still home to several snakes that rely on water for hunting and habitat. They reside close to water sources in order to find shelter and food.
1. Common Garter Snake
- Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis
- Length: 23” to 30”
- Venomous: Yes (mild)
The Common Garter Snake is adaptable to temperature and precipitation extremes. It lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and its foothills, which are in the northern half of Nevada’s western border. It hunts for invertebrates and small mammals in the runoff streams from rainfall and alpine lakes.
Identify this snake by looking at its size and coloring. It’s a lithe, thin snake that reaches a little over two feet long. Its base color is black, but there are three yellow stripes on its back and sides.
Unlike many other snake species, the Common Garter Snake is active during the day. This behavior allows it to soak up the energy from the sun and increase its metabolism to hunt prey. It’s not venomous to humans, but its venom is lethal to small animals like mice and lizards.
Garter snakes are actually very closely related to water snakes and belong to the same subfamily.
2. Wandering Garter Snake
- Scientific name:Thamnophis elegans vagrans
- Length: 20” to 40”
- Venomous: No
The Wandering Garter Snake is a subspecies of the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake. This subspecies is localized to the inland western United States. In Nevada, it lives throughout most of the north and central portion of the state.
While these snakes adapt well to desert conditions, they like to live near water sources. There, they prey on visitors to streams, ponds, and lakes. Most of their diets consists of amphibians and small mammals.
The Wandering Garter Snake is brown with three light brown stripes along its sides and back. There are small dark brown dots that extend the length of its body.
Other Snakes in Nevada
There are several species of venomous snake in Nevada. None of them rely on bodies of water to support themselves, but they’re still important features in the Nevada landscape.
- Scientific name: Crotalus cerastes
- Length: 17” to 33”
- Venomous: Yes
The Sidewinder is a highly venomous desert-dwelling snake. It lives in the sandy desert regions of Southwestern Nevada. Sand gives them the best traction to hide, move, and bask in the sun. They stalk their prey by hiding in rock crevices and piles of brush and vegetation.
Their diet consists of small mammals and lizards. They are opportunistic hunters who hunt mostly at night when temperatures are cool.
Recognize a Sidewinder on account of its tan, brown, and gray coloring. It has a triangle-shaped head and pointed crests over its eyes. Some observers call them ‘horns!’ They’re a type of rattlesnake so they have a rattle at the end of their tails as well.
4. Great Basin Rattlesnake
- Scientific name:Crotalus oreganus lutosus
- Length: 26” to 48”
- Venomous: Yes
Great Basin Rattlesnakes are native to – you guessed it – the Great Basin region of the Western United States. It is actually a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake, which lives throughout the American West. Find them throughout the entire state of Nevada.
This snake adapts well to desert conditions, scrub, and open grassland. They prefer to hunt small mammals and reptiles at night. During the day, they often sun themselves on south-facing rocky slopes.
Identify a Great Basin Rattlesnake by way of its coloration. The base color is tan or pale gray and its back and sides are covered in dark brown or black blotches. These blotches have a light-colored edge, a dark border, and a light middle. Like other rattlesnakes, they have a tail rattle and a triangle-shaped head.
5. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Scientific name: Crotalus atrox
- Length: 48” to 60”
- Venomous: Yes
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are the largest and most-recognizable rattlesnake in the state of Nevada. They are tan or pale brown with an overlaid white diamond pattern on their back and sides. The end of the tail before the rattle is clearly ringed in black and white stripes.
This snake lives only in the southern parts of Nevada. It prefers the dry wilds of the Mojave Desert to areas with human infrastructure. It lies in wait behind rocks or underbrush until a suitable prey animal – usually a mouse or a lizard – walks near where they are hiding. Then, they strike, biting it with their venomous fangs.
Are there venomous water snakes in Nevada?
No, there are no venomous water snakes in Nevada. There are, however, 5 venomous snakes in the state. These snakes are terrestrial rattlesnakes that rarely visit bodies of water. Most of them live in the desert, far from humans.
How many snakes are native to Nevada?
There are at least 23 species of snakes that live naturally in the state of Nevada. Seven of these snakes are venomous, but most of them live in the desert. The remaining nonvenomous snakes are scattered throughout the state.
What are the most common snakes in Nevada?
Rattlesnakes are some of the most common snakes in Nevada. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are the most common predatory snake you’ll see. They usually stay far away from people and prefer to be left alone.
A nonvenomous snake Native to Nevada is the Common Garter Snake. This snake is not a threat to people, but it does tend to inhabit human-built infrastructure, like barns, old houses, and junk piles.