As a land-locked state known for being quite arid and hot, Nevada is certainly a haven for a wide range of snake species. But are there any water snakes in Nevada? Furthermore, what constitutes a water snake? What other types of snakes can you expect to come across in the Silver State? We explore this topic in a bit more depth below. In addition, we take a look at some of Nevada’s most interesting snakes.
What Is a Water Snake?
Before we get into the types of snakes in Nevada and whether or not water snakes live in the area, it’ll help to first gain a better understanding of what exactly a water snake is.
Essentially, a water snake is any one of ten total species plus the several subspecies within the genus Nerodia. This taxonomic name stems from Greek and loosely translates to “flowing” or “liquid.” Furthermore, the genus falls under what is currently the largest family of snakes, Colubridae. Also known simply as “colubrids,” these snakes are largely non-venomous, as opposed to elapid snakes, which have fangs located in the front of the mouth, and viperids, which have hinged fangs that can rotate and move independently. Water snakes lack venom and fangs, making them harmless to people.
While water snakes are obviously not amphibious, and cannot breathe underwater like fish, they are still highly aquatic in nature. They spend most of their lives in or near bodies of water, most commonly slow-moving rivers or still lakes, swamps, and wetlands.
Many species are well-suited for this aquatic lifestyle with adaptations like the diamondback water snake’s uniquely sharp teeth that are ideal for gripping and biting into oily, slick fish and amphibians. All species possess anal glands that can release a foul-smelling musk as a defense mechanism.
All ten species within the Nerodia genus are native to North America. They primarily live in warmer, more humid regions with large wetlands and marshes. Most species live throughout the southern and eastern parts of the United States, with a few residing as far south as Mexico and as far north as Canada.
Does Nevada Have Water Snakes?
Now that we’ve briefly covered what water snakes are and where they generally live, let’s address whether or not any of them live in Nevada. Fortunately for Nevadans who fear these scaly serpents, none of the ten known species of water snakes live in the state. As one of the driest states in the US, Nevada gets only around 10 inches of rain per year. The majority of its climate is either arid or semi-arid. This makes it ideal for many species of snakes– just not water snakes.
Because Nevada is so dry, it isn’t exactly the ideal place for wetlands, marshes, and swamps, which happen to be the preferred habitat of all ten species of water snakes. It is a land-locked state full of harsh deserts, many of which lack significant water sources for hundreds of miles. Additionally, while the state has very hot summers, its winters are surprisingly cold and unforgiving. These factors combined create a habitat that simply does not support a water snake’s lifestyle.
However, even though water snakes don’t find Nevada to be particularly inviting, the state’s dry and harsh environment is still an ideal habitat for dozens of other varieties of serpents. In fact, the Silver State is one of the most snake-infested states in the entire country, with 52 unique species living there.
Other Types of Common Snakes in Nevada
Before we close out this article, let’s take a look at a few of Nevada’s most notable types of snakes in general. We’ll examine why they’re so unique and what you should know about them. Specifically, we’ll explore three of the state’s most interesting species: the Mojave rattlesnake, the striped whipsnake, and the western diamondback rattlesnake.
1. Mojave Green Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
As Nevada’s most venomous snake, it’s best to approach the Mojave green rattlesnake with extreme caution. What’s more, it’s one of Nevada’s most testy snake species. It strikes repeatedly when provoked, approached, or even accidentally startled. It mainly lives throughout the southern half of the state in desert regions with very little vegetation.
As its common name implies, this snake’s coloration ranges from dark brown to a pale green shade. Along the top of its back is a dark brown diamond-like pattern with pale yellow to white outlines. It averages 3 to 4.5 feet long. Interestingly, the Mojave desert makes up very little of its native range, which actually extends throughout much of the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico.
Specifically, the Mojave green’s venom is both neurotoxic and hemotoxic. Some populations have more neurotoxins and some less, but you don’t know which one you’re getting if you’re bitten. This means it does significant damage to its victims’ nervous systems, completely destroys red blood cells, and even completely disrupts blood clotting.
2. Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus)
While the striped whipsnake is thankfully non-venomous, it is notable for being one of Nevada’s longest snakes. It’s one of 11 total species within the Masticophis genus. This group primarily consists of whip snakes, or coachwhips, with long, thin bodies. Like most other whip snakes, the striped whipsnake is harmless to humans.
Incredibly, the striped whipsnake’s body can range from 30 to 72 inches long when fully grown! Its dark brown body is accented by thin, pale yellow stripes running horizontally down its sides. Despite being very long, though, it is a weak-bodied snake that tends to be very fearful and skittish around humans. Its diet is mainly made up of small lizards, frogs, birds, and insects. Occasionally, it will also feed on smaller, often hatchling or juvenile rattlesnakes.
As a diurnal species, the striped whipsnake is mainly active during the day. You likely won’t be quick or sharp enough to spot it in action, though, due to its very fast-moving, alert behavior. It’s hardy enough to live in a wide range of habitats, but it usually hides amongst brush and scrublands. It also frequents rocky outcrops and forests when it isn’t actively hunting prey.
3. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The last of Nevada’s snakes we’ll highlight here is none other than the western diamondback rattlesnake. This fearsome species happens to be the state’s largest rattlesnake species. It’s actually one of North America’s largest rattlesnakes (and among its largest venomous snakes in general), second only to the eastern diamondback, to which it is very closely related. Its strong, hefty body can grow to over 6 feet in length, with some specimens even reaching 7 feet long!
Unfortunately for Nevada’s ophidiophobes, the western diamondback can be found throughout much of the state, as well as much of the southwestern U.S. It can also thrive in a wide range of habitats, including flat, sparse deserts, scrublands, steep canyons and rocky outcrops, and even grasslands and forests. As a heavy snake and unskilled climber, though, it tends to avoid trees and high elevations.
True to its distinctive name, this snake’s grayish-brown body has a prominent diamond-shaped pattern extending down its back. Its rattling tail is marked by anywhere from two to eight thin, black stripes. Like most viperid snakes, its large head is wide and triangular. While most rattlesnakes try to stay hidden, this one rattles early and often. It coils into an S shape and prepares to strike — all while backing away, rattling, and hissing. This nervous snake is very quick to strike in defense.
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