Sonoma County Reptile Rescue – Native Species

Pacific Ring Neck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)

Description: Ring-necked snakes are secretive, nocturnal snakes, so are rarely seen during the day time. They are slightly venomous, but their nonaggressive nature and small, rear-facing fangs pose little threat to humans who wish to handle them. They are best known for their unique defense posture of curling up their tails, exposing their bright red-orange posterior, ventral surface when threatened.

Habitat: Ring-necked snakes occur in a wide variety of habitats. Preference seems to be determined by areas with abundant cover and denning locations. Northern and western subspecies are found within open woodlands near rocky hillsides, or in wetter environments with abundant cover or woody debris. Southern subspecies exist primarily within riparian and wet environments, especially in more arid habitats.

Diet: The diet of the ring-necked snake consists primarily of smaller salamanders, earthworms, and slugs, but they also sometimes eat lizards, frogs, and some juvenile snakes of other species.

Reproduction: Ring-necked snakes usually mate in the spring. In some subspecies, though, mating occurs in the fall, and delayed implantation occurs. Females lay their eggs in loose, aerated soils under a rock or in a rotted log. Three to ten eggs are deposited in early summer and hatch in August or September.

Photo credit: Mark Herr

Western Yellow-Bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon)

Description: It is a subspecies of the eastern racer. It is nonvenomous and is recognized by its long and very slender shape. It is visually similar to the eastern yellow-bellied racer, which is also green, blue or brown with a recognizable yellow underside. Also named for its color, the western yellow-bellied racer is also gray with red or brown blotches when young.

Habitat: Endemic to the Western United States, including California, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Montana and Colorado.

Diet: The eastern racers are fast-moving, highly active, diurnal snakes. Their diet consists primarily of small rodents, frogs, toads, lizards, and other snakes. Some subspecies are known to climb trees to eat eggs and young birds. Juveniles often consume soft-bodied insects, such as crickets and moths. Despite their specific name, constrictor, they do not really employ constriction, instead simply subduing struggling prey by pinning it bodily, pressing one or two coils against it to hold it in place instead of actually suffocating it. Most smaller prey items are simply swallowed alive.

Reproduction: In C. constrictor, mating takes place in the spring from April until early June. Around a month later, the female lays three to 30 eggs in a hidden nest site, such as a hollow log, an abandoned rodent burrow, or under a rock. The juveniles hatch in the early fall. A newborn is 8-10 in (20–26 cm) in total length. Maturity is reached around 2 years old. Eastern racers have been known to lay their eggs in communal sites, where a number of snakes, even those from other species, all lay their eggs together.

Photo credit: Jrtayloriv

California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae)

Description: The California Kingsnake can reach a length between 2.5′ and 3.5′, with the same width throughout most of the body, the head being slightly wider than the neck. It is found in several colors most commonly with alternating bands of black or brown with white or yellow.

Habitat: This species lives in a wide variety of habitats, including woodland chaparral, grassland, deserts, marshes, and even suburban areas. These snakes live in Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and northwestern Mexico.

Diet: California kingsnakes are opportunistic feeders and common food items include rodents, birds, other reptiles and amphibians. All kingsnakes are non-venomous, but are powerful constrictors and generally kill their prey through suffocation. The “king” in their name refers to their propensity to hunt and eat other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes, that are commonly indigenous to their natural habitat. California kingsnakes are naturally resistant to the venom of rattlesnakes, but are not totally immune.

Reproduction: Eggs are laid between May and August, which is generally 42–63 days after mating; in preparation the female will have chosen a suitable location. The typical clutch size is five to 12 eggs with an average of nine, though clutches of 20 or more eggs are known. The hatchlings usually emerge another 40–65 days later and are approximately eight to 13 inches in length.

Photo credit: Connor Long7

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)

Description: The color pattern has a dark-brown, dark-gray, olive-brown or sometimes black or pale yellowish ground color overlaid dorsally with a series of large, dark blotches with uneven edges. The belly is pale yellow, usually with brown spots.

Habitat: Much of the western half of the United States and south into northern Mexico.

Diet: Using its heat-sensing facial pits to locate prey,C. oreganus eats birds, bird eggs, and small mammals, from mice to rabbits. It also eats small reptiles and amphibians. The juveniles eat insects.

Reproduction: Sexually mature females bear live young in broods of as many as 25.

Photo credit: Connor Long


Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis cantenifer cantenifer)

Description: Pacific gopher snake adults range in size from 3–7 feet in total length. However, most of the subspecies reach a length of 4–5 feet. The Pacific gopher snake has a base color ranging from yellow to dark brown and has a gray coloring on the sides of the body. It is a spotted snake, with the spots being dark brown.

Habitat: The Pacific gopher snake ranges up and down the West Coast of the United States, its range ending in the southern coast of California.

Diet: Their diet consists of small mammals, notably pocket gophers; birds and their eggs; the occasional lizard and insect, and even bats.

Reproduction: They are an oviparous species in which eggs are laid from June to August and hatch in 2 to 2.5 months.

Photo credit: Bill Bouton

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sp.)

Description: Most common garter snakes have a pattern of yellow stripes on a black, brown or green background, and their average total length (including tail) is about 22 in, with a maximum total length of about 54 in.

Habitat: Garter snakes populate a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands, and lawns, but never far away from some form of water, often an adjacent wetland, stream, or pond. This reflects the fact that amphibians are a large part of their diet.

Diet: Garter snakes, like all snakes, are carnivorous. Their diet consists of almost any creature they are capable of overpowering: slugs, earthworms
(nightcrawlers, as red wigglers are toxic to garter snakes), leeches, lizards, amphibians
(including frog eggs), minnows, and rodents. When living near water, they will eat other aquatic animals.

Reproduction: Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. However, this is different from being truly viviparous, which is seen in mammals. Gestation is two to three months in most species. As few as three or as many as 80 snakes are born in a single litter. The young are independent upon birth. On record, the greatest number of garter snakes reported to be born in a single litter is 98.

Photo credit: Steve Jurveston

Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)

Description: Rubber boas are one of the smaller boa species, adults can be anywhere from 1.25 to 2.76 ft long; newborns are typically 7.5 to 9.1 in long. The common name is derived from their skin which is often loose and wrinkled and consists of small scales that are smooth and shiny, these characteristics give the snakes a rubber-like look and texture. Colors are typically tan to dark brown with a lighter ventral surface but sometimes olive-green, yellow, or orange.

Habitat: Rubber boas have been known to inhabit a wide variety of habitat types from grassland, meadows and chaparral to
deciduous and conifer forests, to high alpine settings. They can be found at elevations anywhere from sea level to over 10,000 feet (3,000 m). They are not as tolerant of higher temperatures as other snake species and cannot inhabit areas that are too hot and dry, but can live in areas that are surprisingly cold, especially for a snake.

Diet: Rubber boas primarily feed on young mammals such as shrews, voles, mice, etc. When nestling mammals are encountered they will try to consume the entire litter if possible and fend off the mother with their tail, this is why individuals will often have extensive scarring on their tails. Rubber boas have also been known to prey on snake eggs, lizard eggs, lizards, young birds, young bats, and there have even been instances of them eating other snakes.

Reproduction: Rubber boas are viviparous (give birth to live young) and can have up to 9 young per year, but many females will only reproduce every four years. Mating occurs shortly after reemergence from hibernation in the spring and young are born anywhere from August to November later that year.

Photo credit: Kafziel


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