Phoenix 24-Hour Snake Removal Hotline

480-237-9975

Tucson 24-Hour Snake Removal Hotline

520-308-6211

Snake Fencing

480-565-7824

Snakes of Arizona

Phoenix 24/7 Hotline:

480-237-9975

Tucson 24/7 Hotline:

520-308-6211

Year-round warm temperatures and an incredibly diverse landscape make Arizona a reptile paradise. Home to over 50 species of native snakes, and many more varieties of lizards and desert-loving amphibians, it isn't difficult to find them even in your own backyard.

This list has information that is from the perspective of every-day homeowners, casual hikers, and regular residents of Arizona. For example, the Arizona Ridgenosed Rattlesnake is very common in the right places, but the sight of one in the wild by a hiker or homeowner is quite rare. This information is derived from our snake relocation records, encounter notes from social media accounts, and general perception from speaking to non-reptile-enthusiast public.

If you're unsure of what you have seen, email us and we'll identify it for you.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Crotalus atrox

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is the most commonly encountered snake in the Phoenix area, and can be found anywhere where neighborhoods get close to native desert habitat. These are also sometimes called “coon-tail” rattlesnakes. They can be identified by the rattle, white and black striped tail, and white-lined diamond pattern on the back. Coloration is usually drab shades of brown or grey. They are often mistaken for the Mojave Rattlesnake. A large adult diamondback in our area would be in the 3.5’ to 4’ range, with most being smaller. They are generally quick to be defensive, and quite venomous, so keep your distance and leave it alone if encountered.

Full Species Account


Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Crotalus pyrrhus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

Speckled Rattlesnakes live in rocky areas near mountains or hillsides. They’re common in the Camelback Mountain region, South Mountain area, and other parts of the valley adjacent to similar habitat. The Speckled Rattlesnakes is highly variable in color, from a white/grey in the South Mountain and White Tanks areas, brown in North Phoenix, and orange and red going North into Cave Creek and the Anthem areas. They have a loosely banded pattern that is highly flecked to resemble granite within their habitat, and are usually small, with adults being typically around 2’ in length. They have a highly toxic bite and should always be left alone when seen.


Northern Blacktailed Rattlesnake

Crotalus molossus molossus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Blacktailed Rattlesnake lives in mountainous areas and surrounding foothills, and are more rarely found in flat desert areas in between. They are often mistaken for Mojave Rattlesnakes by vacationers, being a common sight near Sedona and other popular tourist areas. The Blacktailed Rattlesnake found near Phoenix is mostly brown, tinted with yellow, orange, or green. Unlike other large-bodied rattlesnakes in the area, they have a solid black tail area just before the rattle, as opposed to rings or stripes. They are usually calm, but will stand their ground when threatened. They should always be left alone if encountered.


Tiger Rattlesnake

Crotalus tigris

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Tiger Rattlesnake lives in many of the same rocky, mountainous areas as the Speckled Rattlesnake. They are seldom seen, but live in most of the Phoenix mountain areas and desert parks. The Tiger Rattlesnake is often confused with the Speckled Rattlesnake, but can be easily identified by the unusually small head and overly large rattle. The banding is more apparent throughout the body, which is usually grey with varying degrees of pink, orange, or brown. This is a small rattlesnake, reaching a size of about 2.5 feet. The Tiger Rattlesnake has an unusually potent venom and should always be left alone if encountered.


Sidewinder

Crotalus cerastes ssp.

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

Sidewinders have a famous name and are extremely common where they are found, yet are quite uncommon to see for most. They live in flat, sandy scrubland desert, and avoid rocky areas and hills. They're very small snakes, reaching an adult size of only around 2 feet. They can be most easily identified by their distinct sideways motion (sidewinding), where the snake throws a loop of its body forward and pulls the rest along rather quickly. They also have two very visible 'horns' above the eyes, which helps the sidewinder live in sandy environments. Although they are small, this snake can give a very bad bite and should never be bothered. Three subspecies are found in Arizona.

Subspecies in AZ

Sonoran Sidewinder
Crotalus cerastes cercobombus

Colorado Desert Sidewinder
Crotalus cerastes laterorepens

Mohave Desert Sidewinder
Crotalus cerastes cerastes


Mojave Rattlesnake

Crotalus scutulatus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Mojave Rattlesnake, or "mojave green" as people like to say, is often confused for the similar-looking Western Diamondback, and visa versa. The Mojave is very commonly seen in flat, sandy desertscrub areas, and less likely seen in mountainous or rocky regions. It's a large snake, reaching about 4' in length as an adult. It can be distinquished from the western diamondback by the striping on the tail. Stripes are generally 2:1 white to black, while the diamondback are 50:50 white to black. The Mojave also has a generally more 'clean' appearance, with more distinct diamonds and less black speckling throughout the body. This snake has a reputation of being an overly dangerous snake, as it is quick to become defensive and has a powerful neurotoxin in many parts of its range. These snakes should always be avoided if seen.


Arizona Black Rattlesnake

Crotalus cerberus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Arizona Black Rattlesnake is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Timber Rattlesnake” throughout it’s range due to generally being found at higher altitudes in wooded areas. They are commonly seen in mountains North of Phoenix. This is a thick-bodied, large rattlesnake. Coloration is light as a young snake, being tan or grey with brown circles down the back. A the snake matures, it will darken to a deep brown color to completely black. They can also change color to some degree, becoming more light or dark depending on various circumstances. This snake can deliver a large amount of highly toxic venom and should be left alone if encountered.


Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake

Crotalus pricei

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Very Rarely encountered
  • Protected - do not interact
  • Snake fencing not necessary

The Twin Spotted Rattlesnake is a very small, grey, blue-grey, or tan rattlesnake from the highest elevations of South East Arizona. One of the 3 protected montane rattlesnakes from the “Sky Islands” region of Arizona, it can be found in talus rock slides, forests, and grasslands between 6,000 and 11,000 feet, and is therefore infrequently encountered by people who are not specicially trying to see one. The tiny rattle creates an insect-like sound that can only be heard in close proximity. Due to superficial similarities in appearance, the unrelated Desert Nightsnake is often misidentified as a Twin Spotted Rattlesnake by concerned home owners searching online.


Banded Rock Rattlesnake

Crotalus lepidus klauberi

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • Protected - do not interact
  • Snake fencing not necessary

The Banded Rock Rattlesnake is a small, specialized species of rattlesnake that lives in the mountainous “sky islands” region of extreme Southeastern Arizona. As its name implies, it is found in association with rocky areas, canyons, and woodland with sun-exposed outcroppings. The banded rock rattlesnake usually has a grey base coloration, and a series of black bands, sometimes with a very bright teal or green outline. Males can be be green, often nearly metallic in appearance, with varying amounts of pink or blue-grey. Protected throughout its limited range in Arizona, this snake should be avoided.


Arizona Ridgenosed Rattlesnake

Crotalus willardi willardi

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Protected - do not interact
  • Snake fencing not necessary

The Arizona Ridgenosed Rattlesnake is the Arizona state reptile. It is one of three protected rattlesnake species in the state, due to limited range and collection by poachers. It is a relatively small snake, with adults seldom exceeding 2’ in length. In the U.S., it is found in only a handful of mountain ranges in the “sky islands” region of Southeast Arizona at elevations above 4,000’. It lives in Madrean Woodlands and adjacent grassy hillsides. This individual is one of a pair collected under permit from AZGFD to represent the species in educational presentations, and provide legal, captive-born specimens to Arizona educational programs.


Desert Massasauga

Sistrurus tergeminus edwardsii

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Protected - do not interact
  • Snake fencing not necessary

The Desert Massasauga is the lone representative of the Sistrurus genus in Arizona, making it the most distantly related of all rattlesnake species in the state. It is small, usually tan, grey, or brown, and may superficially resemble a Prairie Rattlesnake to an untrained eye. In Arizona, the remaining tobosa grass habitat of the Massasauga is in decline due to development and grazing of cattle. While isolated populations continue to exist, numbers are in decline and eventual extirpation is likely. The Desert Massasauga is protected in Arizona from all forms of collection and harrassment, though habitat-conservation is likely the only means of saving this species in our state.


Great Basin Rattlesnake

Crotalus oreganus lutosus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Great Basin Rattlesnake is one of the widest-ranging rattlesnakes in the Western US, being found in AZ, CA, NV, OR, ID, and UT. In AZ, this snake is only found in the extreme North Western Great Basin desert and Arizona Strip regions, up to 8,000 feet in elevation. The “smudge” on the head is an easy differentiator between this snake and the Grand Canyon and Midged Faded rattlesnakes. Extremely variable in color and pattern, they can be found in brilliant yellow, nearly black-and-white, brown, grey, and appear nearly patternless to high-contrast black and gold - all within the same community. This snake can top out at lengths of 5’ in rare instances, but most adults end up in the 3’-3.5’ range.


Grand Canyon Rattlesnake

Crotalus oreganus abyssus

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Grand Canyon Rattlesnake is a medium-sized rattlesnake that can only be found within the Grand Canyon, Paria River Drainages, and Glen Canyon areas of Northern Arizona. The grand canyon rattlesnake is tan, yellowish, or pink in color; a good match for the colorful rocky areas that make up the majority of its range. This snake has a pattern of irregular blotches along the back, often with a dark brown outline. When born, the pattern is highly contrasted but fades as the snake grows. Mature adults can appear to be all but patternless.


Midget Faded Rattlesnake

Crotalus oreganus concolor

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Very rarely encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

This small and elusive rattlesnake just barely makes it across the northern Arizona border. Restricted to a handful of canyons and drainages, most of its habitat lies beneath Lake Powell. They are the smallest species of the former Western Rattlesnake complex, reaching an adult size of under 2 feet. As adults, they are usually tan, yellow, orange, or brown in color, with a minimized pattern that can fade into a nearly patternless appearance, as the name suggests. The Midget Faded Rattlesnake is also notable for its particularly potent neurotoxic venom, referred to as “concolor toxin”.


Prairie Rattlesnake

Crotalus viridis

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Very commonly encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Prairie Rattlesnake, (or Hopi Rattlesnake, depending on the area) is a wide-spread and extremely variable species, found in the North Eastern portions of Arizona, East of the Colorado River. Color, size, and pattern can vary greatly between communities, from small orange or reddish variants, or “Hopi” variety, to large-bodied, green, tan, or brown individuals. In Arizona, they are mostly found at higher elevations, between 4’500’ and 9,000’, inhabiting nearly every habitat type within their range. The Prairie Rattlesnake can be identified by the characteristically narrow light-colored facial stripes, and dorsal blotches that are often outlined oval or bow-tie shapes. They are often misidentifed as “Mojave Green” rattlesnakes in New Mexico and Northern Arizona.


Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum

  • Dangerously Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • Avoid or relocate if found at a home
  • Snake fencing very effective

The Gila Monster is one of the most iconic animals of the Sonoran desert. It lives across Arizona’s desert and grassland regions below the Mogollon rim, and is common throughout its range, despite being rarely seen on the surface. The gila monster is often confused with other large, desert lizards, such as the chuckwalla and desert iguana, but can be easily distinguished by it’s high-contrast black and yellow pattern. Although highly venomous, they should not be considered dangerous. Slow-moving and non-aggressive, bites are easily avoided simply by not approaching or attacking one when encountered. They are protected by state law and should always be left alone.


Sonoran Gophersnake

Pituophis catenifer affinis

  • Harmless
  • Very commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

Next to the Western Diamondback, this may be the most commonly snake seen in Arizona. This is not only due to it being incredibly common, but also because it has adapted very well to life in the city. They can be found on golfcourses, parks, alleyways, and back yards throughout the city. They can be very large, with adults commonly exceeding 5' or more in length. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because of their superficial likeness, and tendency to quickly become defensive when approached. They will open their mouths to hiss, and even rattle their striped tail while striking out towards a perceived threat. While they are not at all venomous, they may bite if handled, the worst result being a few cuts on the hand. They are great pest control (which can actually help keep other, venomous species away), and are great to have around for that reason.


Glossy Snake

Arizona elegans

  • Harmless
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing very effective

These are medium-sized (up to about 3' long) snakes that are often confused with the similar-looking Sonoran Gophersnake. As the name suggests, the Glossy Snake's appearance is often shiny or, well, glossy, due to a lack of ridge (keel) on each scale as is found in the Gophersnakes. Usually brown and tan, oranges and pink colors can be found as well, especially in the Painted Desert (Arizona elegans philipi) subspecies. They are harmless, but may attempt to bite and rattle their tail defensively. While they are common in the sandy soil and grasslands where they live, they are relatively elusive. Of species found within the metro-areas of Phoenix and Tucson, they are very infrequently encountered, with only a handful of individuals in our relocation records.

Subspecies in AZ

Desert Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans eburnata

Arizona Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans noctivaga

Painted Desert Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans philipi


Sonoran Lyresnake

Trimorphodon lambda

  • Mildly Venomous
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

The Sonoran Lyresnake is a very thin, snake found throughout the desert regions of Arizona. It is called a “lyre” snake because head markings that resemble a lyre harp. It is nocturnal, and rarely seen. The lyresnake eats primarily lizards, and also preys on small rodents, bats, and birds. Though venomous, it constricts prey while venom is delivered by a chewing action. This snake is mildly venomous and not considered dangerous, but should still not be handled when encountered. Bites may cause irritation and pain, but do not require hospitalization and have no long-lasting effect.


Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake

Lampropeltis pyromelana

  • Harmless
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

The Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake is a seldom-seen, non-venomous snake found in higher elevation mountainous woodlands throughout Arizona. It can also be found in rocky canyons, riparian areas, and transitional grasslands adjacent to heavily forrested areas. The light-colored, squared nose can be used to distinguish this snake from the rounded, dark snout of the milksnake. More distantly, it is sometimes mistaken for a coralsnake. It is an eater of lizards, as well as small mammals, and birds. Unlike other kingsnakes, other snakes are not on the menu for this species. The Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake is a harmless constrictor that is not cause for alarm if seen.


Ring-Necked Snake

Diadophis punctatus

  • Mildly Venomous
  • Very Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

These are exceptionally beautiful snakes that often cause even snake-haters to admit that they're pretty. The brilliant orange, yellow, and red coloration on the belly becomes exposed when the snake is stressed, with the tail forming a tight coil and the latter portion of body flopped upside-down. The upper body is slate-grey or even steel blue in appearance, sometimes with a yellow or cream colored ring just behind the head. These are typically small snakes, with adults in the Phoenix and Tucson areas usually in the 12-18" range ... but elsewhere in Arizona they can reach sizes up to almost 3' long. The head is relatively small and body thin compared to length. They are primarily snake eaters, but also eat lizards and invertebrates. Their venom can quickly kill its prey, but is not something that should be considered harmful to humans or pets. They almost never bite, and if allowed to chew their mild venom into a hand (which is the only way a bite is going to happen), it may result in some temporary local swelling and redness.


California Kingsnake

Lampropeltis californiae

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

The California Kingsnake is usually identified by the stark white and black, or yellow and black, banding that runs the length of the body. However, they are very often confused with baby Longnosed Snakes, which have a very similar pattern. The Kingsnake’s head shape is slightly different, with a more rounded appearance. The banding is also more complete at the sides, where a Longnosed Snake’s bands may include blotches of white or grey on each side. Kingsnakes are medium-sized, harmless snakes. Adults in the Phoenix area are commonly in the 3′ range, with exceptional animals approaching 4′. They are often found as babies during August and September, having found their way into garages and homes. They are generally considered as beneficial snakes, regardless of fondness for snakes, since they regularly prey on rattlesnakes. The presence of a Kingsnake on a property may help deter or eliminate rattlesnakes.


Desert Kingsnake

Lampropeltis splendida

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

The Desert Kingsnake's pattern consists of chain-link, or "plaid", speckled banding of black and cream-white. The pattern can become nearly solid black in mature snakes, to a speckled/banded pattern in areas where it intergrades with the California Kingsnake. It is a medium-sized, harmless snake. Adults are commonly in the 3′ range. They are often found as babies late in the year in garages, backyards, and golf courses. They are considered to ne beneficial snakes, as a regular predator of venomous rattlesnakes. The presence of a Desert Kingsnake on a property may help reduce the likelihood of rattlesnake encounters.


Desert Nightsnake

Hypsiglena chlorophaea

  • Harmless
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

Nightsnakes are the most common snake to see inside of the home, in our experience. They are great at getting into small cracks and even get through pipes, and end up on kitchen counters, in bathroom sinks, and all kinds of surprising places. They are very small, generally less than a foot long, and are often mistaken as baby rattlesnakes due to their triangular head and vertical eye slits. In fact, they are completely harmless, and it would be a challenge to try to get one to try and bite. When they are scared, they coil into a tight ball and hide their head under the body. They eat scorpions, spiders, and are great to have around the yard.


Chihuahuan Nightsnake

Hypsiglena jani

  • Harmless
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

This snake looks nearly identical to the more commonly-encountered Desert Nightsnake, and placement within the known range (see map) is the best way to differentiate between the two. They are small snakes, generally about a foot long (up to nearly 2' maximum length). The color is generally grey or tan, with a series of darker blotches or saddles that extend the length of the body. Behind their slightly arrow-shaped head, a black "hood" or collar is present. These snakes are often misidentified as rattlesnakes because of their head shape, vertical pupils, and tendency to coil into a tight circle when threatened.


Three-Lined Boa

Lichanura orcutti

  • Harmless
  • Very Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not necessary

They are one of two species of Boa found in the state, the Three-Lined Boa (formerly considered a subspecies of Rosy Boa) are secretive snakes found in mountains of western Arizona. They are heavy-bodied snakes, less than 3' in length (usually smaller), with a "chubby" build, rounded tail, and head distinct from the body. The color is variable, usually consisting 3 dark brown, red, or orange stripes running nose-to-tail against a lighter, cream or white base color. They can be found on the surface in early Spring or late at night during the summer, and are rarely seen in general. Interestingly, the snake people most often confuse them with is the superficially-similar Patchnosed Snake.


Rosy Boa

Lichanura trivirgata

  • Harmless
  • Very Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not necessary

They are one of two species of Boa found in the state, Rosy Boas are secretive snakes found in a handful of mountain ranges south of the Gila River. They are heavy-bodied, less than 3' in length, with a "chubby" build, rounded tail, and head distinct from the body. Their color is variable, usually consisting 3 dark dark brown stripes running the length of the body against a cream or grey base. They can be found on the surface in early Spring and late-night during warmer times.


Groundsnake

Sonora semiannulata

  • Harmless
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

Groundsnakes are very small, with an adult size of only around 10". They can be difficult to identify by using photographs, since they are highly variable in appearance. They can be banded, striped, red, orange, grey, olive, tan, or any combination of these colors. As babies, they are very small, only around 3" long, and may resemble a Blackheaded Snake until their mature coloration develops. Groundsnakes are completely harmless, never bite, and cannot hurt a person of any age or any size of pet. They can be mistaken for the Sonoran Coralsnake on occasion, but in general are easy to differentiate by the lack of white or yellow bands. The place we have most often been called out to retrive them from is the garage, where they get stuck in glue traps or are found under boxes in the Spring.


Variable Sandsnake

Chilomeniscus stramineus

  • Harmless
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not necessary

This small, colorful snake is sometimes seen by homeowners who live near areas with sandy soil or wash systems. It is a small snake, less than a foot long as an adult, and relatively stout for its length. The body alternates between black bands over an orange or cream-colored base, usually fading from a rich orange color on the back to lighter colors below. It's face is relatively long and shovel-shaped. It spends its time moving around sandy soil searching for invertebrates to eat, and is rarely seen in the daytime. You may be able to differentiate it from the very similar-looking Groundsnake by the relatively short, fat appearance relative to its length. They do not bite and are completely harmless, and OK to have in your yard.


Western Shovel-Nosed Snake

Sonora (Chionactis) occipitalis

  • Harmless
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing very effective

Shovel-Nosed Snakes are pretty, small snakes that live throughout the sandy areas of western Arizona. As adults, they are generally less than a foot long. Their color and banding can be quite variable, though all have some form of narrow, black bands over a cream or white base. Most have some degree of alternating red or orange bands that do not encircle the entire body. The Mohave Shovel-Nosed subspecies, in particular, often lacks this orange or red color entirely. The subspecies found by homeowners in the Phoenix-metro area is the Colorado Desert Shovel-Nosed Snake, which has tight, unspeckled red or orange bands along with the usual black and cream colors. They look very similar to the Variable Sandsnakes and Groundsnakes. They are long and slender in comparison with, as the name suggests, a flat, slightly up-turned nose that is used to move through sand. They do not bite and are completely harmless, and OK to have in your yard.

Subspecies in AZ

Colorado Desert Shovel-Nosed Snake
Sonora occipitalis annulata

Tucson Glossy Snake
Sonora occipitalis klauberi

Mohave Glossy Snake
Sonora occipitalis occipitalis


Long-Nosed Snake

Rhinocheilus lecontei

  • Harmless
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

Longnosed Snakes are usually patterned with speckled black and white bands, with varying amounts of red or orange coloration. As hatchlings, they may completely lack any red coloration whatsoever, making them look very similar to Kingsnakes. They range in size between about 7″ as a hatchling, to around 3′ as adults. In addition to being often mistaken for a Kingsnake, this snake is frequently misidentified as a Sonoran Coralsnake. Longnosed Snakes are completely harmless, and almost never bite, even if provoked to an extreme level. Their primary defense is to defecate and musk when picked up, as well as occasionally bleed from the cloaca. This is meant as a deterrant to predators, who may not want a mouthful of nasty goop. During the monsoon season each year, Longnosed Snakes hatch from eggs and wander in search of food. During these first weeks of life, they often find their way into homes.


Coachwhip

Masticophis flagellum

  • Harmless
  • Very Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

Also often called a "red racer", Coachwhips are long, thin snakes that can reach lengths of up to around 5′. They are also very fast, and are very difficult to capture for this reason. Most encounters with a Coachwhip are just a quick glance as it quickly slides away from the area. They can be a variety of colors; brown and tan is most common, though they also may be red, pink, orange, or black. They have large, round eyes that angle forward through indentations in the face, and can appear to be looking forward. They are reasonably intelligent, agile snakes, that can climb trees, climb walls, fences, and are found in about any place imaginable. Coachwhips can help reduce rattlesnakes in an area because they are rattlesnake-eaters. They also consume about any type of rodent, lizard, or bird that will fit in their mouth, also reducing rattlesnake encounters by simply being competition. Coachwhips will bite if picked up, but are not venomous.

Subspecies in AZ

Sonoran Coachwhip
Masticophis flagellum cingulum

Lined Coachwhip
Masticophis flagellum lineatulus

Red Coachwhip
Masticophis flagellum piceus


Western Patch-Nosed Snake

Salvadora hexalepis

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

Patch-Nosed Snakes are most often encountered on dirt roads in the morning or late afternoon by hikers as they bask in the sun, then quickly dart off the road. They're slender, medium-sized snakes that get up to around 3' long. Their color has often been described as "straw", or tan, cream, or a peach tint, with a series of black or brown stripes that run from just behind the eye to the tail. The stripes have a slight saw-tooth look to them, unlike the straight stripes of the Eastern Patch-Nosed Snake. On the end of the nose is an enlarged scale that looks like a small, bent guitar pick, which the snake uses to hunt lizards hiding in shallow sand. They're quick, and most people only get a glimpse of them before they disappear, which often leads to misidentificaiton as a Coachwhip or Whipsnake. They're harmless, but might give a minor bite (some scratches) of picked up.

Subspecies in AZ

Big Bend Patch-Nosed Snake
Salvadora hexalepis deserticola

Desert Patch-Nosed Snake
Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis

Mohave Patch-Nosed Snake
Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis


Saddled Leaf-Nosed Snake

Phyllorhynchus browni

  • Harmless
  • Very Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

This small, harmless snake is one of the most rarely-seen species that lives along the highly-urbanized areas of Phoenix and Tucson. They're small, usually only around a foot long. They are a cream or tan color with, unlike the similar Spotted Leaf-Nosed Snake, a series of dark brown, incomplete bands along the body that are relatively few. The face has an enlarged scaled shaped like an upside-down heart that they use to push through sandy soil. They are heavy-bodied for their size, which can help differentiate them from the more commonly-seen Longnosed Snakes and variety of other small, ground-dwelling species. An eater of primarily lizard eggs, this snake is completely harmless. If stressed, it might perform a series of dramatic, fake hisses and strikes with its mouth closed, but does not actually bite.


Spotted Leaf-Nosed Snake

Phyllorhynchus decurtatus

  • Harmless
  • Rarely encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

This small, harmless snake is not often seen. They're small, usually only around a foot long. They are a cream, pink, or tan color with irregularly-shaped blotches along the back, from head to tail, in a much higher frequency than the few saddles appearing on the Saddled Leaf-Nosed Snake. The face has an enlarged scaled shaped like an upside-down heart that they use to push through sandy soil. They are heavy-bodied for their size, which can help differentiate them from the more commonly-seen variety of other small, ground-dwelling snakes. An eater of primarily lizard eggs, this snake is completely harmless. If stressed, it might perform a series of dramatic, fake hisses and strikes with its mouth closed, but does not actually bite.


Sonoran Whipsnake

Masticophis bilineatus

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing not effective

These fast snakes are commonly seen people enjoying the outdoors, but very rarely seen in and around homes and backyards. They're long (up to 5' – 6' long as adults) and slender and usually disappear quickly into bushes when disturbed. The color is often a slate-grey, but sometimes appears as a colorful gradient of olive green, blue, to reddish brown, with a white belly and a stripe on each side from just behind the head down the body. Their head has a more angular appearance than the similar-looking Coachwhip, with a white jaw and stripe extending through the base of the eye. They are day-active, agile predators that often eat birds, lizards, and rodents. They're harmless and non-venomous, though if someone were to pick one up it is likely to bite.


Checkered Gartersnake

Thamnophis marcianus

  • Mildly Venomous
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

These relatively common snakes are often found near irrigation and agricultural areas around Phoenix and Tucson, and along grassy waterways throughout much of the southeastern part of the state. They can be large, up to around 3 feet long, but most are smaller. Their color is a brown or grey base color with numerous black or darker-brown blotches that appear in a checkerboard pattern and a white belly. There is a single white or cream-colored stripe along the back, and a thin stripe along each side that runs the length of the body. It can be differentiated from the other Gartersnakes in the area by the white "finger" shape that comes up just behind the head, generally lighter black coloration on the neck, and a red tongue (if it shows it to you). Their range may be exapanding in the state due to irrigation and agricultural activity. They will eat anything they can catch, and often spend the day searching for frogs and toads and rodents along waterways.


Black-Necked Gartersnake

Thamnophis cyrtopsis

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

These pretty Gartersnakes can be seen hunting tadpoles and small fish along many waterways and mountain streams throughout central and southeastern Arizona. They're capable of getting above 3 feet long, but most are half that size. Unlike the other species of Gartersnakes in the state, they can be quite colorful. As the name implies, two large, black blotches are right behind the lighter-colored head. The grey or brown body usually has a number of black or brown blotches that often fade away mid-body, and a bright yellow or cream-colored stripe runs along the back from head to tail. A lighter-colored stripe runs along each side, from jaw to tail. On occasion, brilliant teal or blue skin can be seen between the scales, often when the snake has just eaten and engorged.


Western Terrestrial Gartersnake

Thamnophis elegans

  • Harmless
  • Commonly encountered
  • No action necessary
  • Snake fencing somewhat effective

These snakes are those most often seen by fishermen and campers along the rim areas along waterways, lakes, and ponds. Compared to the Checkered and Black-necked Gartersnakes, these snakes are relatively drab in appearance. Most have the typical Gartersnake back-stripe and blotches, though usually much more subdued and in some, almost missing entirely. They eat fish, tadpoles and frogs, and a variety of invertebrates, and are easily seen as they hunt in grass at the waters' edge. They are harmless, but may bite if picked up and cause a few scratches.

Subspecies in AZ

Wandering Gartersnake
Thamnophis elegans vagrans

Arizona Wandering Gartersnake
Thamnophis elegans arizonae


Coming Soon:



Snakes Found in the Phoenix and Tucson Metro Areas:


Smith's Black-Headed Snake Tantilla hobartsmithi

Western Threadsnake Rema humilis

Brahminy Blind Snake Indotyphlops braminus


Snakes NOT Found in the Phoenix Metro Area:


Sonoran Shovel-Nosed Snake Sonora (Chionactis) palarostris

Racer Coluber constrictor

Striped Whipsnake Masticophis taeniatus

Chihuanuan Hook-Nosed Snake Gyalopion canum

Thornscrub Hook-Nosed Snake Gyalopion quadrandulare

Mexican Hog-Nosed Snake Heterodon kennerlyi

Brown Vinesnake Oxybelis aeneus

Eastern Patch-Nosed Snake Salvadora grahamiae

Green Ratsnake Senticolis triaspis

Plains Black-Headed Snake Tantilla nigricieps

Chihuahuan Black-Headed Snake Tantilla wilcoxi

Yaque Black-Headed Snake Tantilla yaquia

Mexican Gartersnake Thamnophis eques

Narrow-Headed Gartersnake Thamnophis rufipunctatus

New Mexico Threadsnake Rena dissectus