Some 31 species of snakes call the Beehive State home, seven of which are venomous. Many snakes are found only in the desert, while others live in specific regions of the state. Many species common elsewhere dwell in isolated pockets in Utah. Because the possibility of encountering venomous snakes is so high, homeowners should learn how to snake-proof their properties, and hikers and dog walkers should learn to avoid snake-infested areas.
Utah is rattlesnake country. Rattlesnakes found within state borders include the speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) in the Mojave Desert; the ground-dwelling green prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) in the southeastern part of the state; the small, pink Hopi rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis nuntiusm), also found in the southeast; the small, cream-colored midget faded rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus concolor), found in eastern Utah; the Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus), found throughout western Utah; and the relatively rare Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), which is found only in the state's extreme southwest corner.
The sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) is also a rattlesnake. In Utah, this species is considered endangered and is also found only in its extreme southwest corner.
Many Utah species dwell primarily in the desert. These include the nightsnake (Hypsiglena torquata), a gray snake with dark blotches on its back and sides; the light gray desert glossy snake (Arizona elegans eburnata); the very rare spotted leaf-nosed snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus); the small, brown western patch-nosed snake (Salvadora hexalepis); and the coachwhip (Masticophis flagellummm), commonly called the red racer.
Although a Utah native, Smith's black-headed snake (Tantilla hobartsmithi) is relatively rare. While the smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis) is abundant in other parts of the country and easily identified by its bright green coloring, it's uncommon in Utah. The Great Plains rat snake (Elaphe guttata), also known as the cornsnake, is common elsewhere but rare in Utah.
Garter snakes live almost everywhere, with Utah no exception. Homeowners might find the small terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegan) in their backyards. The red-, black- and yellow-striped milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) is found in Utah's central and eastern regions. The striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus) lives throughout the state, primarily near streams. The large, black eastern racer (Coluber constrictor) is also found Utah, with the exception of desert areas. The black-and-white common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) dwells in the southern half of the state. The gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer), a large yellow reptile with black blotches, lives throughout the state.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.