Slither Up and Make Friends with WA’s Serpent Residents!
In case this little bit of intel hasn't slithered into your world already, today (February 1) is National Serpent Day!
It's a 24-hour block set aside annually as a way of encouraging all humans to broaden their understanding of snakes and to overcome any fears or phobias people might harbor for them.
You won't find too many places around the world where these ancient and appendage-less friends aren't scaring at least a portion of the local population. Snakes of all shapes, sizes, and colors are prolific everywhere on Earth except for Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and oddly enough, New Zealand.
Unlike those rather unusual (and largely frigid!) places however, here in Washington State, we have our fair share of indigenous, scaly crawlers.
And so on this National Serpent Day, let's take a look at a few of the ophidians we share our home with.
Perhaps the most common of all Washington snakes, the Garter is a small to medium sized friend with a generally non-descript coloring like gray or brown.
Garters are widespread in the Evergreen State, but you'll usually find them hanging out closer to watery habitats.
In fact, when water levels in the Columbia River were high enough to flood a portion of the Apple Capital Loop Trail at Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park in East Wenatchee last year, I even saw a few of these little guys wriggling alongside the path's walkers, bikers, and joggers trying to keep up!
Here at home, when people see a snake, many aren't too sure what kind it might be (unless it's a rattler of course), so you know that snake you'll find in the grass or the garden every so often outside your home? Chances are, it's a Garter who's happened along to volunteer its service to you by eating vermin and keeping you on your toes!
This serpent pal who can grow to lengths of seven or eight feet would have come in handy for Carl Spackler's problems in the 1980 comedy classic Caddyshack.
The gopher snake is also called the bull snake, but it's far more adept at hunting its rodent namesake.
Gopher snakes have a pattern and coloring that is very similar to a Western rattlesnakes. In fact, this non-venomous fellow is often mistaken for its viperine cousin, especially since it will also shake its tail in a similar manner when threatened.
Much like the rattlers of Washington, the state's gopher snakes favor drier climates with plenty of sagebrush for cover. So they're predominately an Eastside resident and one we should rejoice in having live among us to be sure.
If you're ever fortunate enough to see one of these colorful friends, you'll probably think that someone has lost an exotic pet or that you've somehow stepped through a porthole and been transported to some place a lot closer to the equator!
Ringneck snakes are fairly common but rarely seen, since they're nocturnal and like most snakes, are not too anxious for encounters with people.
Just by looking at this smaller species, which only grows to about 15 inches in length at most, it's easy to see what sets them apart from the other serpents of Washington; with its bright orange, red or yellow underside and namesake banding below its head.
Ringnecks live in a variety of habitats but typically enjoy rockier landscapes with a medium or dense forest canopy.
If you ever happen to glimpse a ringneck in the wild, consider yourself very lucky, since they don't make themselves known too often.
Yes, it's true! Washington State is actually home to its very own species of wild boa!
The rubber boa belongs to the same family of snakes that include those which are the biggest in the world, including boa constrictors, pythons, and anacondas.
Unlike its massive relatives however, the rubber boa doesn't grow to lengths the size of an 18-wheeler. Instead, the largest among its ranks is little more than two feet long.
The rubber boa inhabits a wide variety of environs, including grasslands, meadows, and forests.
So the next time you happen to be watching the movie Anaconda (or any one of the four sequels), remember that you are sharing your home with one its kind!...albeit just a tad bit smaller though ~:)
Undoubtedly the most iconic of Washington's resident serpent population is the Western rattlesnake.
Even at an early age growing up in East Wenatchee, these venomous members of the viper family became the stuff of legend, since my parents made certain to impart not only what a rattler looked like, but also what they sounded like too. And looking back, I can see why, since me and every other kid I knew back then had at least one or two run-ins with a rattler while playing with their G.I. Joes or rockhounding on the nearby desert hills.
Yup! This snakey friend is poisonous to be sure, but like so many creatures we live alongside, they really have no interest in biting you unless provoked and shy away from encounters with humans.
So if you see...or hear a Western rattlesnake shakin' in your neighborhood, just give it the space needed to pass on by and remember to appreciate the grace, beauty, and potency of this toxic neighbor.
Here's a bonus list of every other snake found in Washington State!
- Western Hog Nose Snake
- Northern Copperhead Snake
- Timber Rattlesnake
- Western Massasauga Snake
- California Mountain Kingsnake
- Black Bull Snake
- Night Snake
- Northwestern Garter Snake
- Northern Black Racer Snake
- Sharp Tail Snake
- Northern Ring Neck Snake
- Striped Whip Snake
- Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
- Milk Snake
- Green Smooth Snake
- Short Headed Garter Snake