When Do Snakes Come Out in Oklahoma?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: June 30, 2023
© Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:
  • Snakes come out in April, in early spring, in Oklahoma.
  • These reptiles do not hibernate but brumate: a state of dormancy in which their metabolism slows down.
  • Some snakes such as Western rattlesnakes huddle together in the same den throughout the winter.

There are 46 different snake species in Oklahoma with seven of them being venomous. From the large western diamondback rattlesnakes that can get to be 7 feet long to the tiny earthworm-like blind snakes there are a variety of snakes living throughout the state. Some prefer sandy soil, others will hide in the forests and still others live in and around lakes, rivers and streams. Snakes are cold blooded so they have to maintain their body temperature by changing their environment, so in the winter in Oklahoma when the average high is below 58°F, most snakes will hibernate (brumate) to stay warm enough. As you can imagine, when they wake up and need to find food and want to mate, they can come out in numbers. So when do snakes come out in Oklahoma?

Black Mesa Oklahoma
There are 46 different species of snakes in Oklahoma, seven of which are venomous.


How Long Is the Winter in Oklahoma?

The winter in Oklahoma is usually three months long. Winter usually settles in around Thanksgiving, in late November, and lasts until the end of February.

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How Cold Does It Get in Oklahoma in the Winter?

Snow in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, northern areas tend to be colder than southern portions of the state.

©iStock.com/LaVonna Moore

The average temperature in winter during the day is in the mid-40s to low 50s. At night, the temperature will drop to the 20s and 30s. Winters are colder in the northern part of the state and a bit milder in the southern regions.

What Is the Coldest Month in Oklahoma?

January is the coldest month with the temperature dipping below freezing on some nights. The average temperature at night is 26 degrees.

When Do Snakes Come Out in Oklahoma?

group of garter snakes in den
In Oklahoma, snakes come out in April and are most active until October.

©Jukka Palm/Shutterstock.com

Snakes come out in Oklahoma in April and are most active until October. When temperatures begin to rise in March and into April the snakes begin the process of coming out of their dens. Besides the change in weather that alerts the snakes, hormonal changes get the snakes ready to mate in the spring.

Do Snakes Hibernate or Brumate?

Snakes actually don’t hibernate like bears, they brumate which is similar but a little different. Snakes will go into a dormant state where they don’t need to consume as many calories but they are not completely asleep like bears and other mammals. They will come out on warmer days to bask in the sun and find water since they do need to replenish their water to avoid dehydration.

Are There Really Large Snake Dens?

Timber rattlesnaake coiled in a loop
Timber rattlesnakes will return to the same den every year where you can find hundreds of them huddled together.

©Frode Jacobsen/Shutterstock.com

Yes! Rattlesnakes will den together in large snake dens of hundreds of snakes! Western rattlesnakes will den together in large groups with an occasional western racer snake joining the group. Timber rattlesnakes will den in the same place year after year.

Do Large Groups of Snakes Travel Together?

If you are imagining a herd of snakes slithering across Tulsa you will be disappointed. Although snakes may den together when they come out they split up and spread out getting ready to find the best mating ground.

Do Snakes Fight Each Other?

During mating season rattlesnakes will fight each other if there are several males in one area and only one female. They may rise up and wrestle each other wrapping their bodies around each other to show dominance. Their goal is not to kill and eat the other snake it is all about winning the right to mate with the female. That is why they typically don’t bite during these altercations.

Where Do You Find Snakes in Oklahoma?

Cottonmouth swimming in water. The snake has a long, thick, muscular body measuring up to 6 feet in size.
Cottonmouths are one of the largest snakes in Oklahoma with a thick muscular body that can get to be 6 feet long.

©Seth LaGrange/Shutterstock.com

Snakes are located in every county in Oklahoma. Some of the most dangerous snakes like the cottonmouths and copperheads are usually found in moist areas or wetlands. In southern and western Oklahoma you should be more aware when hiking near rocky ridges where snakes like to hide. Garter snakes, rat snakes, and bull snakes may find their way into your backyard. But, if you keep your grass trimmed and clear any brush leaf piles they are less likely to stick around. When you are out hiking be sure to stick to the trail where you are less likely to startle a snake.

What Kind of Snakes Live in Oklahoma?

Garden Snake or Garter Snake
Garter snakes are the most common snake in Oklahoma. You may even find one in your backyard or garden.

©Alexander Gold/Shutterstock.com

There are 46 different snake species in Oklahoma. Garter snakes are the most common snakes in Oklahoma and one of the most common you may run into. They are very adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats.

What Non-Venomous Snakes Live in Oklahoma?

A California kingsnake in a defensive position is ready to attack
Kingsnakes are immune to rattlesnake venom and include venomous snakes in their diet


  • Garter snakes: Found all over North America, they are pretty adaptable in their choice of habitat but are never found far from water.
  • Kingsnakes: Like garter snakes, these reptiles are also adaptable with regard to their habitat. Found all over the United States, they can be immune to rattlesnake venom and dine on copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths.
  • Water snakes: They include broad-banded watersnakes, heavy-bodied plain-bellied watersnakes, and cottonmouth lookalikes i.e., northern watersnakes.
  • Racers: They include the eastern-yellow-bellied racer found throughout the state with the exception of its southeastern regions and the southern black racer found in the east of Oklahoma.
  • Bullsnakes: This variety of gopher snake enjoys eating rodents and can generally be found in the Great Plains region.

What Venomous Snakes Live in Oklahoma?

What Does a Copperhead Snake Look Like
Copperheads prefer to live in swampy lowlands and can blend in with their environment

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

  • Northern Cottonmouths (Water Moccasin): Featuring heavy bodies and dark scales with pale underbellies, these snakes are named for the interior of their mouths which is white. They are venomous and prefer to stay on the ground rather than in trees.
  • Copperheads: Notable for their hourglass markings and coppery red scales, these snakes rely on their ability to blend in with their surroundings. They can be found in swampy lowlands.
  • Rattlesnakes: Known for their distinctive warning rattle and venom, these vipers are fond of preying on small rodents and birds. There are 36 species of them in the United States including the prairie, timber, western diamondback, western pygmy rattlesnakes, and Western Massasauga.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Venomous and a Non-Venomous Snake?

Pit vipers have an opening on their head that serves as an infrared sensor.

©Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock.com

Cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes are all pit vipers so they have some common traits. Pit vipers all have small openings on their heads, and pits, that are heat-sensing organs. It helps them find prey. Pit vipers also have vertical pupils, similar to cats and they all have fangs. The fangs can fold up to the roof of their mouth and be ready in a split second if they need to defend themselves or snag a scurrying mouse. For rattlesnakes look for a triangle head and a rattle at the end of the tail. If you are comparing cottonmouths to other water snakes, cottonmouths are more thick-bodied down to their tail and they swim on top of the water with their heads up.

How Common Are Snake Bites in Oklahoma?

People do get bit by snakes in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Center for Poison & Drug Information, there are around 300 bites each year. Both venomous and non-venomous snakes can bite, with the venomous ones requiring immediate medical attention. If you are not sure what kind of snake bit you, seek medical attention as a precaution. Sometimes venomous snakes will deliver a “dry bite” where they bite but don’t release venom, which is painful but not as serious.

Do People Hunt Snakes When Snakes Come Out in Oklahoma?

Rattlesnake on a Rock
Get ready for the Apache Rattlesnake Festival in Apache, OK. They will have an enormous snake pit and rattlesnake meat samples!


Yes! Rattlesnake hunting season is March 1 to June 31 in Oklahoma. There is no daily limit. If you want to compete with other snake enthusiasts take your catches to the Apache Rattlesnake Festival in Apache, OK. They have contests for the most rattlesnakes caught and the largest. The main attraction however is an enormous pit of rattlesnakes. To plan your trip to the rattlesnake festival for next year check out the details here.

Other Reptiles Found in Oklahoma

Alligator snapping turtle Macrochelys temminckii
The alligator snapping turtle, which can weigh up to 250 pounds, is found in Oklahoma.

©iStock.com/Sista Vongjintanaruks

Oklahoma’s largest turtle and the largest freshwater turtle found in North America is the Alligator Snapping Turtle. Adults can reach a weight of up to 250 pounds and can have a shell length that exceeds two feet. With a hooked beak, a smooth tail, and three prominent shell ridges, these large reptiles are found in east central and southeastern lakes and rivers. They spend most of their time in the water and will feed on many different types of foods, some of which are birds, crayfish, mammals, and amphibians. If confronted, they may attempt to bite a human.

American Alligator

©Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com

Although not very common, the American alligator, also known as a living dinosaur, can still be found in southeastern Oklahoma’s swamps and marshes, most notably in Red Slough Wildlife Management Area and the Little River National Wildlife Refuge. This reptile has remained unchanged for 65 million years, with its body armor of large, bony plates, and can endure long periods of time in cold conditions. An adult alligator will feed on most anything that comes in its vicinity but mostly consumes mammals, turtles, birds and fish.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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