13 Snakes Near the Washington DC Region

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: June 2, 2022
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Although the Washington District of Columbia is more famous for being the seat of the federal government, the district has a lot of interesting animals and plants too. Washington houses more than 3,100 plant species and over 400 animal species. One of the district’s most commonly spotted reptiles is the snake. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife states that the district is home to at least 7 species of snakes but experts state there might actually be up to 13! Discover 13 snakes near the Washington DC Region.

13 Snakes Near the Washington DC Region

There are at least 13 snake species found near the Washington DC region.

©Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.com

The California mountain kingsnake, common garter snake, Great Basin gopher snake, Pacific gopher snake, night snake, northwestern garter snake, rubber boa, eastern racer snakes, eastern ring-necked snake, sharp-tailed snake, striped whipsnake, western terrestrial garter snake, and the western rattlesnake are 13 species of snakes found near the Washington DC region.

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California mountain kingsnake

A California mountain kingsnake crawling over the skull of a cow
California kingsnakes are available in many colors, the most common being alternating dark and light bands.

©Ann May Snz/Shutterstock.com

The California mountain kingsnake is a nonvenomous colubrid snake that looks a lot like a coral snake. They have red, white (or yellow), and black rings all around their bodies. However, this snake follows the law of the coral snake rhyme. It has its red and black rings touching and is nonvenomous.

This tri-colored snake always has its black and red rings touching, even with its subspecies. There are 7 recognized subspecies of these snakes and North America is home to 5 of them. California mountain kingsnake can be found in the extreme southern parts of Washington.

Common garter snake

common garter snake slithering in grass
All garter snakes have keeled scales, which means they have a ridge down the center.

©iStock.com/Wildnerdpix

Common garter snakes are widely found all over America. They are harmless colubrid snakes that grow to about 53 inches and 5.3 ounces. It is important to note that these colubrid snakes are harmless but have venomous saliva. Their venom is only toxic to the small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that they prey on. Garter snakes are found in southwestern and northwestern Washington.

Great Basin Gopher Snake

gopher snake
Great Basin Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola).

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Also known as bull snakes, Great Basin gopher snakes are nonvenomous colubrid snakes found in various parts of Washington. They are great climbers, swimmers, and burrowers and are commonly spotted, especially during mating season.

Although they are nonvenomous, they have an arsenal of defensive behaviors in their artillery. When threatened, they inflate and elevate their bodies while flattening their heads into triangular shapes. They do all these while rattling their tails to look like venomous snakes. Great Basin gopher snakes are usually dark brown or black with dorsal spots.

Pacific Gopher Snake

Pacific Gopher Snake
Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer).

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Also known simply as the gopher snake, the Pacific gopher snake ranges from 3 to 7 feet in length. These snakes, like most of Washington’s species, are nonvenomous and colubrids. They can easily be identified by their yellow or black background skins as well as their gray markings. Pacific gopher snakes also have really thin necks and protruding snouts. They can live up to 10-15 years in the wild!

Night snake

Texas night snake on a rock
Known for their pale gray coloring, night snakes grow up to 26 inches long.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Night snakes are colubrid snakes known for their pale gray, brown, or beige coloring. They grow up to 26 inches long and have flat and rectangular-shaped heads. Night snakes are venomous but their venom is only effective on their prey. This makes them harmless to humans.

Northwestern garter snake

Unlike the average common garter snake, northwestern garter snakes are short and rarely exceed 24 inches in length.

©Liz Weber/Shutterstock.com

Northwestern garter snakes, unlike the average common garter snake, are short and rarely exceed 24 inches in length. They are found in various parts of Washington DC as well as other parts of North America, such as California and Oregon. These snakes are considered extremely variable and prefer to inhabit areas with vegetation but are often spotted because they sneak out a lot for a bit of sunlight. 

Rubber boa

Boa snake in the United States
Measuring 1.25 to 2.76 feet long, rubber boas are constrictors.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Rubber boas, like all boas, are constrictors. This species is small, however, and usually measures around 1.25 to 2.76 ft in length. They get their names from their rubber-like loose skins. As adults, rubber boas are typically colored brown but could be olive-green, yellow, or orange. Newborns, on the other hand, are pink and slightly transparent. This changes as they darken with age. Rubber boas have been spotted in many states in the US such as Oregon, California, and the Washington DC region.

Eastern Racer Snakes

Snakes in Kansas - Eastern Racer Snake
Although eastern racer snakes are nonvenomous, they do not make good pets.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Eastern racer snakes are found in various parts of North and Central America. Racer snakes usually measure from 35- 75 inches in length. They are nonvenomous colubrid snakes known for their curious natures. It is common to find an eastern racer snake raising its head to check out what’s going on around it. These snakes aren’t exactly docile and never get used to captivity or being handled, so they do not make good pets.

Eastern Ring-necked Snake

Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Although eastern ring-necked snakes have venom, they are only dangerous to their prey.

©Tom Fenske/Shutterstock.com

Eastern ring-necked snakes are colubrid snakes that usually grow 10- 15 inches long. They are highly variable in color and could be smoky-black, bluish-gray, brown, or olive. Ringneck snakes are easily identified by their neckband which is usually colored yellow, yellowish-orange, or red. They have venom which is only really dangerous or harmful to their prey.

Sharp-tailed Snake

A Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis), near Lake Nacimiento, San Luis Obispo County, California
Found in various parts of the DC region, sharp-tailed snakes are not easy to spot in the open due to their shy natures.

Sharp-tailed snakes are small and nonvenomous. They are found in various parts of the DC region and British Columbia. These snakes are not known to exceed 19 inches in length as adults. Sharp-tailed snakes are easily identified by their sharp tail spines which they use to hunt their small prey. These snakes are not easy to spot in the open due to their shy personalities.

Striped Whipsnake

Desert Striped Whipsnake
Closely related to California kingsnakes, striped whipsnakes are nonvenomous colubrid snakes.

©Randy Bjorklund/Shutterstock.com

Striped whipsnakes are closely related to California mountain kingsnakes. They are nonvenomous colubrid snakes found in south-central Washington down to the Great Basin. Striped whipsnakes are diurnal and grow from 30 to 72 inches in length. These snakes have various colors on their bodies. However, you can expect their backs to be dark brown, gray, or black with a hint of olive or blue.  

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Western,Terrestrial,Garter,Snake,-,Thamnophis,Elegans
Measuring anywhere from 18 to 41 inches, western terrestrial garter snakes are not dangerous to humans.

©Randy Bjorklund/Shutterstock.com

Western terrestrial garter snakes are a highly variable species known to have orange or white dorsal stripes as well as stripes of the same color on each side. They are mostly medium-sized and measure anywhere from 18 to 41 inches. They are not dangerous to humans but have mildly venomous saliva. They are also known to spray musk if they feel threatened.

Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake
Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis).

©iStock.com/SteveMcsweeny

The western rattlesnake is the only deadly and venomous snake found in the Washington DC region. Western rattlesnakes are known for their deadly venom and supposedly-aggressive natures. However, it would be more accurate to state that these snakes only bite when they feel threatened. They often use up to 20-55 percent of their total venom capacity in a bite. These venomous pit vipers are found in Washington DC as well as a handful of other states in the US.

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The Featured Image

San Francisco garter snakes, endemic of California, have small, slender bodies measuring an average of 3 feet.
San Francisco garter snakes, endemic of California, have small, slender bodies measuring an average of 3 feet.
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