Snakes of Utah

By Skip Davis
Corn snakes, a common rat snake species, Utah
Jupiterimages/ Images

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife, the Beehive State is home to nearly 30 native snake species. Utah's dry desert regions are suitable habitats for many of its snake species. Also, some Utah snakes prefer the mountain ranges, such as the Wasatch Range, in the northern and eastern areas of the state.


Utah has seven venomous species of rattlesnake within its borders: great basin, green prairie, Hopi, midget-faded, sidewinder, speckled and Mojave rattlesnakes. When threatened or alarmed, these snakes shake their tail, which causes a rattling noise. The midget-faded rattlesnake, or Crotalus oreganus concolor, lives in the rocky terrain of eastern Utah. The other six Utah rattlesnakes live in the arid desert regions of western and southern Utah. These snakes are venomous, and paralyze their prey when they bite. Utah's rattlesnakes also are considered pit vipers, due to the cavity, or "pit," between their eyes.


Three species of garter snakes occur in Utah: common, black-necked and terrestrial. All three snakes are in the Thamnophis genus. The most frequently seen Thamnophis snake in Utah -- and the United States -- is the common garter snake, which primarily lives in the northern, central and eastern part of the state. Black-necked garter snakes are the least common Thamnophis snakes in Utah. Garter snakes may be identified by the two long stripes running from head to tail. Two of Utah's garter snakes -- common and terrestrial -- have subspecies living in the Beehive State. The wandering garter snake is a subspecies of the terrestrial garter snake, while the common garter snake's subspecies is the valley garter snake.


Kingsnakes belong to the Lampropeltis genus. Utah is home to three kingsnake species: common kingsnake, Sonoran mountain kingsnake and milksnake. The name "kingsnake" derives from this species' eating habits, which includes eating other snakes. A kingsnake's diet also includes venomous snakes and other kingsnakes; kingsnakes are immune to snake venom. People often mistake the milksnake, or Lampropeltis triangulum, for the venomous coral snake -- which is not native to Utah. Both snakes have similar ring patterns. However, a milksnake's color pattern is red-black-yellow, while the coral snake has a red-yellow-black pattern.


Utah is home to two whipsnake species, the coachwhip and striped whipsnake. The coachwhip, or Masticophis flagellum, is also known as a red racer. These snakes are known as whipsnakes due to their whip-shaped tail. Whips also are known for their slender bodies. The longest of the two species is the coachwhip, which grows to more than 8 feet as adults. Coachwhips are found in Utah's southern desert region, while striped whipsnakes are found in nearly every area of Utah. Both snakes are active during the summer and hibernate in the winter.

About the Author

Skip Davis has been writing professionally since 2005. His work has appeared in "Southern Literary Magazine," on various websites and in graphic panels at the Jackson Zoological Park in Jackson, Miss. Currently living in Southern California, Davis received his Bachelor of Arts in theater at Belhaven College.