Discover the 7 Types of Rattlesnakes in Utah

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus)
Alexander Wong/

Written by Kellianne Matthews

Updated: August 31, 2023

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The 7 Types of Rattlesnakes in Utah

Rattlesnakes in Utah begin emerging from their winter brumation around April, when the weather starts warming up. They remain most active throughout the summer, until the weather begins to turn cold again around September. Many of us see rattlesnakes as something terrifying. True, a rattlesnake bite can be quite dangerous due to the complexity of toxins in their venom. However, rattlesnakes really are not as awful as you might expect. In fact, the rattlesnakes in Utah are non-aggressive, and will only strike if they are threatened or harassed. Most likely you will walk right past a rattlesnake while hiking and never even know it! So, what kinds of rattlesnakes live in Utah?

What types of Rattlesnakes are in Utah?

A rattlesnake will shake its tail when it feels threatened to make a hissing or rattling alarm sound.

Utah is home to seven different types of rattlesnakes. Six are unique species (as you’ll see, some snakes on this list are “subspecies,” which means they’re different but not quite different enough to be a unique species). Rattlesnakes are protected under Utah law. This means that it is illegal to hunt, kill, or harass any rattlesnake found in Utah. Utah’s rattlesnakes are very important to the environment and ecosystem, helping to keep the rodents population in check. Let’s check out the seven types of rattlesnakes found within the state of Utah.

1. Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

Mojave Rattlesnake

The Mojave Rattlesnake is widely considered the most deadly snake in the United States.

Mojave Rattlesnake
RangeExtreme southwest corner of Utah
Length39-54 inches

The Mojave rattlesnake is found only in the extreme southwest corner of Utah. Its habitat stretches from central Mexico through the southwest United States. The Mojave rattlesnake is 39-54 inches long and lives in desert climates with little vegetation where it spends much of its time out in open air.

The Mojave rattlesnake comes in various shades of brown, often with a greenish hue. The Western rattlesnake has a similar appearance, but it lacks this “Mojave” green tinge. The Mojave rattlesnake has a dark diamond pattern running down the middle of its back, with a white band on its tail.

The venom of the Mojave rattlesnake is one of the most dangerous in North America. However, bites can be treated with anti-venom if you get medical attention right away. The Mojave rattlesnake’s potent venom is a neurotoxic-hemotoxic blend, attacking both the nervous system and the circulatory system at the same time.

2. Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)

Although prairie rattlesnakes spend most of their time slithering on the ground, they can also climb trees, navigate bushes, and are known to hide in rock crevices or small caves.

Prairie Rattlesnake
RangeEastern half of Utah
Length35-45 inches

The prairie rattlesnake lives in the eastern half of Utah. It is sometimes called the Great Plains rattlesnake since its range covers most of the Great Plains area of North America, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico. Prairie rattlesnakes are usually more than 3 feet long but can measure anywhere from 35-45 inches.

The prairie rattlesnake is lightly colored, usually in various shades of brown. It has dark brown oval-shaped patches with thin white borders running down the middle of its back. As these patches get closer to the end of their tails, they become dark rings. The scales along the snake’s back are also keeled, so there is a rough ridge in the middle of each scale, giving the snake a rougher, bristly appearance.

Prairie rattlesnakes primarily eat small mammals like mice, ground squirrels, small rabbits, prairie dogs, and rats. Occasionally they will also hunt ground-nesting birds, small reptiles, and amphibians. The venom of the prairie rattlesnake is primarily a hemotoxin, destroying red blood cells. It also has some neurotoxic elements as well that can interfere with cell signaling and cause paralysis. All prairie rattlesnakes have toxic venom from the day they are born, although some scientists argue that the venom composition changes as they age. Regardless, you should always be careful around rattlesnakes, no matter their size or age.

3. Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus lutosis)

Great Basin Rattlesnake - Crotalus oreganus lutosus

The oldest Great Basin Rattlesnake on record was 19 1/2 years old.

Great Basin Rattlesnake
RangeWestern Utah
Length16-64 inches

The Great Basin rattlesnake is found in western Utah, favoring areas with agriculture, grassy plains, stony canyons, and rocky hillsides. Its habitat covers much of the Great Basin area of the United States, from which it gets its name. The Great Basin Rattlesnake is a subspecies of the western rattlesnake, ranging in length from 16-64 inches long. Most commonly, however, these snakes are around three feet long.

Great Basin rattlesnakes have stocky, thick bodies and are usually pale gray, olive-brown, light brown, or yellowish-brown in color. Dark blotches with pale centers run along the middle of their backs. Great Basin rattlesnakes are quite helpful to farmers since they eat many animals that damage crops, like rabbits and ground squirrels. These snakes also hunt birds, amphibians, lizards, and other snakes. Their venom contains both hemotoxins and myotoxins, and possibly even neurotoxins.

The Great Basin rattlesnake has a non-venomous look-a-like: the Great Basin gopher snake. The two snakes are similar in color, and the Great Basin gopher snake mimics a rattlesnake by twitching its tail when threatened. Because of their similar appearance and behavior, many hikers unfortunately act out of fear and kill Great Basin gopher snakes, even though they are harmless.

Here are a few ways to tell the difference between the Great Basin rattlesnake and the Great Basin gopher snake:

  • The Great Basin rattlesnake has a thicker body and a large triangle-shaped head.
  • The Great Basin gopher snake has a thin body with a head shaped like a bullet.

4. Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus)

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus)

The Speckled Rattlesnake’s venom is twice as dangerous as the western diamondback rattlesnake.

Speckled Rattlesnake
RangeExtreme southwest corner of Utah
Length39 inches or less

The speckled rattlesnake is endemic to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, but it is found only in the extreme southwest corner of Utah. In the U.S. these snakes do not grow longer than 39 inches. Speckled rattlesnakes are light brown or tan in color with small dark bands and colored “speckles” all over their bodies. However, a speckled rattlesnake’s color varies more than other rattlesnakes because their camouflage coloring helps them to blend into their surrounding environment. They can be light brown or tan, but also off-white, gray, pale brown, pale yellow, pinkish-brown, pale orange, etc., depending on where they live.

Speckled rattlesnakes live in desert areas, preferring a combination of sandy, rocky areas mixed with some vegetation like shrubs or conifer trees. The venom of the speckled rattlesnake is neurotoxic, attacking the nervous system and causing paralysis.

5. Hopi Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis nuntius)

Hopi Rattlesnake - Crotalus viridis nuntius

The Hopi Rattlesnake looks like a small prairie rattlesnake.

Hopi Rattlesnake
RangeSoutheastern Utah
Length24 inches

Hopi rattlesnakes live in southeastern Utah, as well as northwest New Mexico and the desert plateau of northeastern Arizona. The Hopi Rattlesnake is a subspecies of the prairie rattlesnake and is very similar, except smaller, usually around 24 inches long. These rattlesnakes can be orange-brown, gray, or pink, blending in with their surrounding environment. They are patterned with darker brown blotches running down the middle of their backs.

Hopi rattlesnakes are known for being “secretive,” hanging out in rocky crevices or even burrows of other animals to avoid the heat. They emerge early in the morning to hunt rodents, lizards, birds, and occasionally frogs.

Hopi rattlesnakes are generally shy, non-aggressive creatures, but they are quick to attack if they feel threatened or harassed. The venom of the Hopi rattlesnake is primarily hemotoxic, causing swelling and necrosis. Depending on the area, some Hopi rattlesnakes have additional neurotoxins in their venom, causing respiratory issues and muscle paralysis.

The Hopi rattlesnake is a sacred animal to the Hopi Tribe, which is where it gets its name. The Hopi people see these rattlesnakes as guardians of springs and rain. They perform a traditional dance ceremony with the Hopi rattlesnake (without harming it) to help bring rain to the region. Following the ceremony, the people send the snakes back to the wild carrying the prayers of the dancers with them.

6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake (Crotalus concolor)

The Midget Faded Rattlesnake’s venom is one of the most potent in North America.

Midget Faded Rattlesnake
RangeEastern Utah
Length25 inches or less

The midget faded rattlesnake is found in the eastern part of Utah, as well as in the Colorado River basin, the Green River basin, Wyoming, and some parts of Colorado. These rattlesnakes are smaller than many of the snakes on this list, measuring 25 inches long at the very most.

Midget faded rattlesnakes are pale brown, cream, yellow-brown, or even pinkish in color. They have rectangle blotches with rounded edges running along the middle of their backs, with each blotch outlined in a darker shade of brown. When they are young, midget faded rattlesnakes have brighter, more distinct markings on their backs. As they age, these patterns fade, which is where they get their name. They can become so faded, in fact, that it is hard to tell the difference between this rattlesnake and the ground beneath it!

The midget faded rattlesnake lives in rocky hillside habitats, hunting lizards and other cold-blooded prey. Their venom is extremely toxic, a mix of both neurotoxins and myotoxins that cause paralysis and destroy muscles. The midget faded rattlesnake’s venom is possibly even more poisonous than some cobras.

7. Sidewinder Rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes)

Where Do Snakes Live

Venomous Sidewinder Rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes) with forked tongue lying on the desert sand.

Sidewinder Rattlesnake
RangeExtreme southwest corner of Utah
Length17-30 inches

The sidewinder rattlesnake is found in the extreme southwest corner of Utah, the southwest deserts of the United States, and northwest Mexico. It is one of the smallest species of rattlesnake, measuring between 17-30 inches long. The sidewinder gets its name from how it moves. This rattlesnake slithers in a sideways, winding motion across the sand, leaving J-shaped marks behind. This form of locomotion allows the sidewinder to move up sandy slopes with ease.

Sidewinder rattlesnakes can be light-brownish yellow, cream, yellow-brown, or pink. They have darker, geometric blotches running down the middle of their backs, with smaller patches scattered across their bodies that help them to blend in with the sand. Their most noticeable features are the horn-like scales right above their eyes, which is why sometimes they are called horned rattlesnakes.

Sidewinders bury themselves partially in the sand and wait for their prey to pass by. The venom of sidewinder rattlesnakes is weaker than that of most other rattlesnakes, and their venom glands are smaller. This makes sidewinder rattlesnakes less toxic than others, but it is still dangerous, and you should always stay out of the way of any rattlesnake.

What Other Venomous Animals Live in Utah?

Arizona bark scorpion resting

Arizona bark scorpions are the most venomous of their kind in the United States

The Arizona Bark Scorpion: A small, but incredibly resilient arachnid, this scorpion is found in the southwestern United States and even extends southwards into Mexico. It is capable of measuring slightly over 3 inches and loves to conceal itself beneath rocks to escape the scorching noonday heat. The arachnid also happens to be the most venomous of its kind in the United States. Its sting is known to cause sensations reminiscent of potent electric shocks, tremors, extreme pain, vomiting, nausea, and immobility of the affected part. Symptoms persist between 1 – 3 days.

Deadliest Animals in America

The female western black widow is capable of producing a potent neurotoxin

The Black Widow: The Arizona Bark Scorpion may be the most venomous scorpion in the United States, however, it is far from being the most venomous arachnid. That status belongs to the arthropod otherwise known as Latrodectus hesperus, or the Western Black Widow. The spider which can be found throughout the western United States, possesses a neurotoxic venom that is extremely dangerous for the young, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Victims have reported symptoms that include nausea and pain.

Summary of the 7 Types of Rattlesnakes in Utah

1 Mojave RattlesnakeThe extreme southwest corner of Utah.
2Prairie RattlesnakeThe eastern half of Utah. It is sometimes called the Great Plains rattlesnake, since its range covers most of the Great Plains area of North America, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico
3Great Basin Rattlesnake Western Utah
4Speckled RattlesnakeThe southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, but it is found only in the extreme southwest corner of Utah. 
5Hopi RattlesnakeSoutheastern Utah, as well as northwest New Mexico and the desert plateau of northeastern Arizona.
6Midget Faded RattlesnakeThe eastern part of Utah, as well as in the Colorado River basin, the Green River basin, Wyoming, and some parts of Colorado.
7Sidewinder RattlesnakeThe extreme southwest corner of Utah, the southwest deserts of the United States, and northwest Mexico
The 7 Types of Rattlesnakes in Utah

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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