A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Patterned California Snakes


observation link


Blotched, saddled, spotted, irregularly banded, with no rattle on the tail.

Look for a picture that is similar to the snake you want to identify. Read the brief descriptions of
behavior and habitat, and if it fits your snake, click on the link to continue your search.

Pacific Gopher Snake
Pacific Gopher Snake San Diego Gopher Snake Great Basin Gopher Snake
San Diego Gopher Snake
Gopher Snakes 

Not Dangerous to Humans
One of the most commonly seen snakes in California. Active in daytime, occasionally at night. Found in most areas of the state, including mountains, deserts, open areas, woodland, forests, frequently seen on trails and roads. Unfortunately, this harmless and beneficial species is very often killed out of fear that it is dangerous or that it is a rattlesnake. Take a look at some of the links and information here to help you learn how to know if a snake is a rattlesnake or a gopher snake.

California Lyresnake California Lyresnake
Lyre Snakes

Mildly-venomous - Not dangerous to humans
Found at night in rocky areas in the southern deserts and south coast. The lyre-like marking on the head distinguishes this snake.

Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
Leafnosed Snake

Not Dangerous to Humans
A very small snake, found at night only in the southern deserts, frequently on roads.

Red Racer
Red Racer Baja California Coachwhip Red Racer San Joaquin Coachwhip
Coachwhips (Racers)

Not Dangerous to Humans
Found during the day in deserts and other hot open areas. A large black area on the neck will usually help you identify this snake. Some snakes may appear to have no pattern, especially when they are in motion.

California Glossy Snake Mohave Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
Glossy Snakes

Not Dangerous to Humans
Found at night in the southern deserts and in the central valley and coastal foothills. Slow-moving, similar to gophersnakes, but the markings  appear less distinct.

California Nightsnake
Northern Desert Nightsnake Northern Desert Nightsnake Northern Desert Nightsnake California Nightsnake
Night Snakes

Not Dangerous to Humans
Small snakes found at night or underneath objects. A black patch on the neck and blotches that look like a double row of spots will help identify this snake.

western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Juvenile Western Yellow-bellied Racer

Not Dangerous to Humans
Small, fast-moving snakes, found active in the daytime, in open and grassy areas. Resembles a small gophersnake, but with longer, thinner tail. Changes appearance as it reaches adulthood. The belly is yellow, often bright yellow.

Sierra Gartersnake Sierra Gartersnake
Sierra Gartersnake

Not Dangerous to Humans
Found mainly in and around streams and ponds in the Sierra Nevada mountains, including the east slope leading into the Owens Valley, and near Mt. Shasta in the north.

California Kingsnake
Aberrant California Kingsnake

Not Dangerous to Humans
An unusual variation of the California Kingsnake found in the central valley, from Mendota to Davis. There are other patterned or striped aberrant California Kingsnakes found in California, mainly along the southern coast.

Northern Watersnake
Southern Watersnake

Not Dangerous to Humans
Northern Watersnake

Not Dangerous to Humans
Recently introduced near Folsom, Roseville, and Harbor City, and maybe elsewhere. Active in daytime. Found in or next to water, quickly diving underwater when disturbed.

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