Discover the 2 Types of Rattlesnakes in Oregon

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Updated: October 10, 2022
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Key Points

  • Out of 15 snake species found in the state of Oregon, only two are venomous.
  • Venomous snakes in Oregon include the Great Basin rattlesnake and the Northern Pacific rattlesnake.
  • Western and central Oregon are home to the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, while the Great Basin rattlesnake tends to inhabit the eastern half of the state.

Oregon is known for its amazing sights and wildlife populations. Animals living in this Northwest state include many species of mammals, birds, and yes, snakes. There are at least 15 different species of snakes living in Oregon, but only 2 are considered dangerous: the Great Basin rattlesnake and the Northern Pacific rattlesnake.

If you come across a snake in Oregon, you can tell it’s a rattlesnake if it has a triangular-shaped head, thin vertical pupils, and of course, a rattle at the end of its tail. Although rattlesnakes are venomous, they are non-aggressive and do not attack unless provoked. These snakes are essential to the ecosystems in Oregon, as they help to keep rodent populations in check. Let’s look at Oregon’s 2 resident rattlesnakes.

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1.      Great Basin Rattlesnake (Western Rattlesnake)

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
Often leading to confusion, the Great Basin Rattlesnakes and the Great Basin gopher snake are very similar in appearance.

©Randy Bjorklund/Shutterstock.com

Great Basin Rattlesnake
RangeEastern half of Oregon
Length16-64 inches

The Great Basin Rattlesnake is a subspecies of western rattlesnake that lives in the eastern half of Oregon. Like its name, this rattlesnake can be found throughout the Great Basin region of the United States. These snakes are 16-64 inches long with thickset bodies and rough, keeled scales. They are gray, tan, or yellow-brown, with darker splotches down the middle of their backs. Great Basin rattlesnakes are generally solitary and shy. However, like most rattlesnakes they will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

The Great Basin gopher snake–a harmless, nonvenomous snake species–is often mistaken for the Great Basin rattlesnake, due to their very similar appearance. However, the Great Basin rattlesnake has a large, triangular-shaped head, and a much thicker body than the Great Basin gopher snake.

2.      Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
The longest Northern Pacific Rattlesnake on record was 64 inches long.

©Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
RangeWestern & Central Northeastern Oregon
Length39 inches

The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake lives in western and central northeastern Oregon. On average these snakes grow up to 39 inches long and are brown, gray, or greenish-brown. Patterned along their backs are large, square-shaped blotches. Younger snakes have lighter colors and more distinct patterns that get darker and less clear as they age.

Northern Pacific rattlesnakes are passive and rarely aggressive. These snakes may sun themselves on rocks during the day, but most of the time will stay hidden in rocky crevices. Their venom is a hemotoxic-neurotoxic mix that is quite potent.

Other Snakes in Oregon

In addition to the Great Basin rattlesnake and the Northern Pacific rattlesnake, there are at least 13 other kinds of non-venomous snakes that live in Oregon. Take a look at just a few of Oregon’s other snake species.

Great Basin Gopher Snake

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
The Great Basin Gopher Snake often mimics a rattlesnake when it feels threatened.

©Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Great Basin Gopher Snake
RangeEastern half of Oregon
Length30-72 inches

The Great Basin Gopher Snake lives in the eastern half of Oregon and is usually 30-72 inches long. As mentioned before, this snake looks very similar to a rattlesnake, and it even twitches its tail like a rattlesnake. The Great Basin gopher snake is yellowish, tan, or light brown in color, with dark square-shaped blotches running down its back. Its head is much smaller than that of a rattlesnake, however, and of course, it does not have a rattle at the end of its tail. Gopher snakes are excellent pest controllers for farmers, because they eat small mammals like rabbits and rodents. They also eat birds and lizards from time to time.

Northern Rubber Boa

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
Rubber Boas are very docile snakes.

©yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Northern Rubber Boa
RangeAll of Oregon
Length14-33 inches

The Northern Rubber Boa is 14-33 inches long and lives all throughout Oregon. Like its name, this snake is a light tan color and looks like rubber. The end of its tail is rounded and blunt, making it look almost like a second head–which is why this snake has nicknames like the “double-ender” and the “two-headed snake.” The rubber boa uses its tail as a decoy when it feels threatened, striking with it while hiding its real head.

Garter Snake

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
Garter snakes don’t have fangs and aren’t venomous. However, they do have a few rows of small teeth and can bite.

©K Quinn Ferris/Shutterstock.com

Garter Snakes
RangeAll of Oregon
Length18-54 inches

Garter Snakes are one of the most common types of snakes living in Oregon. There are several different types of garter snakes found in Oregon, like the common garter snake, Pacific Coast aquatic garter snake, northwestern garter snake, and western terrestrial garter snake. Like its name, the “common” garter snake is the most common snake found in Oregon. The common garter snake is longer than the other types, growing up to 54 inches long. This snake comes in many different colors, but usually has a distinctive stripe running down the middle of its back. Garter snakes are harmless and often are welcome guests in gardens because they eat pests like spiders, slugs, insects, and leeches.

Western Yellow-Bellied Racer

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
Racer snakes are identifiable by their long, thin bodies with darker colored backs and light-colored bellies.

©Michael Chatt/Shutterstock.com

Racer
RangeEastern half of Oregon
Length36-72 inches

The Western Yellow-Bellied Racer is a subspecies of racer snake that lives mostly in the eastern half of Oregon, although it is rarely seen in high mountains or dry areas. These snakes prefer sunny, dry areas, although they can also be found in marshes and along edges of lakes. The western yellow-bellied racer is a non-venomous snake with a long and slender body, usually measuring between 36-72 inches.

California Mountain Kingsnake

Rattlesnakes in Oregon
The California Mountain Kingsnake has a black head and face. Its color pattern is always the same, with the red bands surrounded by black bands.

©Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

California Mountain Kingsnake
RangeSouthwestern Oregon
Length20-40 inches

The California Mountain Kingsnake lives in woodland habitats and rocky outcrops in southwestern Oregon. These snakes are 20-40 inches long with red, black, and white bands all along the length of their bodies. These vibrant colors and stark patterns are part of the California mountain kingsnake’s defensive system. Its appearance mimics other dangerous snakes, helping to keep predators away. However, in reality these snakes are actually nonvenomous and harmless! The California mountain kingsnake is an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species.

Striped Whipsnake

rattlesnakes in oregon
The Desert Striped Whipsnake lives in the western United States and northern Mexico.

©Randy Bjorklund/Shutterstock.com

Striped Whipsnake
RangeNorthwestern Oregon
Length24-72 inches

The Striped Whipsnake is commonly found in northwestern Oregon. This snake is known for its ability to move really fast, similar to a whip. It has a long body with two long stripes running down the sides. Striped whipsnakes eat small mammals, birds, lizards, and smaller snakes. Some are even known to eat small rattlesnakes.

Summary: Venomous snakes in Oregon

SpeciesHabitat
Great Basin rattlesnakeEastern Oregon
Northern Pacific RattlesnakeWestern & central Oregon

Up Next…

Knowing what venomous snakes might be in your area or somewhere you’re visiting is crucial if you plan on outdoor adventures. Check out where venomous snakes are around the world and in the U.S.

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two types of rattlesnakes in Oregon
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About the Author

I have been a professional writer for 10 years with a particular focus on nature, wildlife, anthrozoology, and human-animal relationships. My areas of interest include human-animal studies, ecocriticism, vulnerable species, pets, and animal behavior. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a master’s degree in Comparative Studies, focusing on the relationship between humanity and the natural world. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, watching movies, reading, creating art, and caring for my pets. Nothing brings me greater joy than a day spent in the company of animals.

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