California Nature

Learn about California's beautiful and unique nature.

California's  Non Venomous Snakes
Let's face it, many if not most people have some anxiety about snakes and with good cause. Snakes are wild reptiles that will bite and defend themselves if threatened. For the welfare of both humans and snakes, it is best to leave them alone and to avoid contact. California has a variety of snakes, most of which are benign. The exception is California’s only native venomous snake, the rattlesnake. Snakes have long bodies with no legs. They crawl on their bellies. Some are excellent climbers, most can swim. The body is covered with dry skin with visible scales, which may be smooth or rough, and might appear wet or slimy. Snakes can be found on land, in water, in trees and shrubs, underneath objects, and in holes in the ground. They can be active at any time during the day or night, but many species are mostly either diurnal or nocturnal .Snakes can be seen whenever there is warm weather. When snakes move, the pattern and colors often blend together making them difficult to observe.

grater snakes in California have bright stripes like this San Francisco garter snakeCalifornia garter snakes are medium-sized slender snakes with a head barely wider than the neck and scales on the back which are keeled - having a ridge lengthwise on each scale. Most species have a stripe on top of the back, and on the bottom of each side, but on some species this stripe is faint or absent, and sometimes the side stripes are absent. Many garter snakes have red coloring on the sides, often with a red and black checkered pattern. Others have a variation of light and dark checkering on the sides.

Most California garter snakes are active during the daytime, but sometimes they will be active at night during very hot weather. They are usually found in or around water, although sometimes they are found on land far from water. Exceptions are Marcy's Checkered Garter snake which is most active at night, and the Northwestern Garter snake which is not typically found near water. When handled, garter snakes will often release foul-smelling fluids from the vent near the end of the tail, and many will strike repeatedly at the handler. Garter snakes do not pose any danger to humans, but their saliva does contain certain toxins which can cause redness and swelling at the site of a bite.

Rubber boas are thick-bodied, blunt-tailed, slow-moving snakes found in moist areas in grassland, chaparral, woodland, and forest. Active on the surface mostly at night, they are often at low temperatures for snakes. Usually found crossing roads at night and under surface objects such as rocks, logs, and boards, there at two species found in California nature.Rubber boas are one of the smallest members of the boa family, and one of the northern most ranging. Rubber boas can be found from as far south as the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains to the east of Los Angeles, northward in a nearly continuous distribution to British Columbia, and eastward through Idaho, northern Nevada, Utah, central Montana, and western Wyoming. Rubber boas are incredibly docile snakes and are ideal for handling by children and those trying to overcome a fear of snakes. Unlike many other snakes, they never use striking as a defense mechanism, although if handled too roughly, they will musk the holder (excrete very smelly substance from their vent), but absolutely will not strike in defense. Upon being picked up, a Rubber boa will gently wrap around the holder's wrist for upwards of an hour or more before seeking to crawl around. Even when warm and active, Rubber Boas rarely move swiftly.

California  mountain kinsnakes try to look like coral snakesThe California Mountain Kingsnake is a harmless, diurnal snake of forests, chaparral, and coastal scrub. Found primarily in the mountains, but along the coast it can be found close to sea level. The California Mountain Kingsnake is often seen along mountain streams, and underneath rocks in sunny mountain clearings.

California Mountain Kingsnakes have a banded pattern that consists of alternating red, black and white bands. The bands are always arranged in the same order with each red band being surrounded by black forming what is called a triad. Each triad is set in white, or on some examples, cream or yellow. Some individuals may have reduced amounts of red pigment and rare individuals may have virtually no red bands at all. One population from Isla Todos Santos always lacks the red bands and is a uniformly black and white banded snake similar in appearance to the related California Kingsnake. This species is mostly diurnal, but will be active at night in warmer weather. It is an excellent climber, prefers southwestern facing slopes, and often retreats beneath granite flakes.

A medium sized snake, the long-nosed snake is 22 to 41 inches in length. A vaguely banded snake of black, white, and red, his snout is elongated and slightly pointed. Black bands are heavily spotted with white and white bands heavily spotted with black with this California snake and most scales are under the tail in a single row. Common only in desert regions and locally in coastal southern California, the long-nosed snake is uncommon in the interior Coast Ranges and the adjacent floor of the Central Valley from Sutter and Butte counties southward. This species ranges widely in southern California and is known from desert regions east of the Sierra and Cascade Ranges north to the Oregon border. Long-nosed snakes prey heavily on lizards but also take rodents and other small prey. Seldom found under surface objects, long-nosed snakes are good burrowers. A nocturnal snake, burrowing during the day. When disturbed, this species shakes its tail and exerts its anal vent exuding blood and feces.

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