11 Types of Snakes in Washington

Washington isn’t necessarily the land of snakes, but it does have its fair share of reptiles, both venomous and non-venomous.

Today, we will discuss 11 of them, some popular and some not so much, to help you get a better idea of what to expect.

Let’s get right in!

1. California Mountain Kingsnake

The California mountain kingsnake is among the most colorful and popular on today’s list. This reptile only grows up to 3 feet but makes up for it via its animated coloring.

Most mountain kingsnakes are red or bright orange with white bands, each having a black band on either side. All individuals have a black face and a white neck collar, and the reptile’s entire color pattern is meant to create anatomical confusion.

In other words, predators have a hard time distinguishing the head from the tail, which works to the snake’s advantage.

California mountain kingsnakes are common in the western US and inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including mountainous areas and low-elevation deserts.

They prefer rocky habitats, where they find shelter and can move graciously between the rocks in search of food. Kingsnakes prefer to consume rodents but won’t refuse anything else that comes their way, including birds and reptiles.

The snake is overall docile and harmless, especially since it doesn’t possess venom. I would recommend it as a great pet, except it doesn’t; not necessarily.

The main problem is that mountain kingsnakes are very pretentious about their living conditions and don’t appreciate human contact or proximity. This makes them slightly more feral than other species.

This doesn’t mean they’re more dangerous, just that they require specialized care and may experience stress in captivity. So, they’re better suited for more experienced snake keepers.

Interesting fact: Mountain kingsnakes often prefer to face their attackers than flee, especially when surprised. They coil up and produce a loud hiss meant to intimidate and scare the invaders away.

The snake will also produce a foul smell from its cloaca that could rival a skunk. If one tactic doesn’t work, the other might.

2. Common Garter Snake

Common Garter Snake

Common garter snakes are, well, quite common on US soil. You can’t really call yourself an American if you’ve never had an encounter with at least one garter snake.

These reptiles can reach 3.5 feet in size, with some going slightly above that. The snake is quite recognizable thanks to its garter-like pattern, with the 3 longitudinal bands traversing its body from head to tail.

Garter snakes come in a variety of colors, including black, yellow, grey, brown, and even patches of red. The 3 longitudinal bands are always there, though, allowing you to recognize the species with ease.

Garter snakes are pretty much widespread throughout all of North America, where it inhabits a multitude of ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, grasslands, and even suburban regions.

The snake’s favorite meals are rodents, which explains its close proximity to human settlements. But they also consume fish, frogs, birds, and even other snakes, depending on what’s available to them.

Garter snakes are fairly easy to keep, but you still need a basic understanding of snakes, in general, to provide the reptile with the ideal care.

Interesting fact: Garter snakes can release a toxic compound from their cloaca called thamnose.

This is a foul-smelling chemical that can produce toxicity when ingested. Which is great for the snake when dealing with a determined predator.

3. Common Sharp-Tailed Snake

Sharp-tailed snakes have a more exotic appearance than what you may be used to. Most specimens are orange or red, but they also come in brown variations, depending on their ecosystem.

They rarely go above 12 inches, so they’re fairly small, causing many people to mistake them for oversized earthworms.

Coincidentally enough, earthworms are an important part of the snake’s diet, which the snake hunts using its needle-sharp tail. The reptile uses its tail to dig into the soil and through the leaf litter in search of insects and other prey.

Larger individuals can also feed on small fish and tadpoles, and even other snakes, if given the opportunity.

Sharp-tailed snakes are common throughout North America in habitats like wetlands, grasslands, and suburban areas. However, you’re unlikely to spot them in the wild due to their reclusive lifestyle and low profile.

These snakes are docile but not exactly friendly because they prefer to flee as soon as they sense any danger nearby. They’re also great swimmers and prefer to dwell near water sources, which provide them with quick escape routes.

Interesting fact: Sharp-tailed snakes can also use their tails’ sharp tips for defensive purposes, although they have limited potential.

So, the snake prefers to flee and hide than fight back. But it’s not bad to have a decent defensive tool in place for when the situation gets rough.

4. Desert Striped Whipsnake

This is one of the longest species so far on today’s list. The desert striped whipsnake can reach 6 feet in length, but it stays slim and agile no matter the size. The snake is very similar in appearance to the garter snake, especially in terms of coloring.

The snake also possesses 2 lateral white or yellow bands but lacks the third one that follows the spine line in garter snakes.

These reptiles are common in desertic regions across the southern US and Mexico and are usually found in open areas, constantly on the lookout for food.

These snakes have a very varied diet, as they consume anything from reptiles, birds, and mammals to even venomous snakes in some cases.

This snake is among the fastest in the region, as it is capable of reaching speeds of up to 8-10 miles per hour on land. This helps them evade predators with ease and chase their prey with extreme precision and agility, even on rugged terrain.

Interesting fact: The snake possesses a very long and thin tail that’s sometimes colored differently than the rest of the body. The tail isn’t there just for aesthetic purposes but for practical ones as well.

The reptile uses it as bait, moving it slowly in the dirt to attract animals that mistake it for a worm or a small snake. Without realizing that the tail is attached to a true predator.

5. Gopher Snake

This is another giant, by this list’s standards, capable of reaching 7 feet in the wild. Gopher snakes are both highly recognizable and confusing at first sight.

This desertic creature enjoys the deserts, grasslands, and scrublands of North America and is quite popular and widespread on the continent. You can tell you’re looking at a gopher snake by the reptile’s coloration and markings.

Gopher snakes are usually yellow or light brown with dark brown rectangle-shaped markings on the dorsal area and the sides. The underbelly is generally clean of any markings.

These snakes qualify as land reptiles, but they’re also popular for their climbing abilities and the drive to explore different ecosystems. Their favorite foods include rodents, small mammals, lizards, birds, and even eggs, no matter to whom they belong.

Gopher snakes are quite popular as pets due to their docile temperament, but this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily friendly.

They still need safety, comfort, and space to stay healthy and stress-free over the years. Fortunately, they’re not difficult to keep as pets and can qualify as beginner-friendly overall.

Interesting fact: Gopher snakes mimic the appearance and behavior of rattlesnakes, often creating fear and confusion among those encountering them in the wild. Which is the snake’s whole purpose anyway.

Gopher snakes coil up and hiss loudly when surprised or threatened, the sound reminding of the notorious rattling effect that rattlesnakes produce with their tails. Fortunately, it’s all for show because rattlesnakes are not venomous.

6. Night Snake

Night snakes resemble gopher snakes, which resemble rattlesnakes, which are highly venomous. This mimicception is due to the night snake’s color and pattern, as most individuals are brown with dark brown markings.

However, night snakes are a separate species in their own right, with their own characteristics and behaviors.

The snake doesn’t grow past 2 feet in most cases and comes with a reasonably thick body, creating the impression of a venomous reptile.

The head is small, and some individuals diverge from the standard coloration. Some are completely blue with blue markings, making for quite beautiful reptiles.

Night snakes are common throughout North America, where they populate ecosystems like grasslands, deserts, and rocky hillsides. They hunt small prey like lizards, insects, mammals, and even other snakes.

Despite its non-aggressive demeanor, this species is not pet material. Night snakes can easily become stressed and sick in captivity and are only fit for professional keepers. And even they cannot prevent sickness and death among captive-bred specimens.

Interesting fact: This snake isn’t venomous, but it can produce mild venom through its saliva.

This isn’t dangerous to humans, aside from some mild discomfort, but it does help the snake immobilize its prey enough and secure its meals.

7. Northern Desert Night Snake

The northern desert night snake is one of the smallest reptiles on today’s list, amounting to almost 18 inches. Some are smaller than that, making for cute and adorable reptiles.

This species is widespread in the southern US and northern Mexico, where it thrives in desertic regions with rocky layouts and sandy washes. You can sometimes find them in some grassland areas as well, but that’s rarer.

These snakes are built for a desert lifestyle, and you can tell that by their coloring. Desert night snakes are all sandy-yellow or light brown with distinct rectangle-shaped markings on their back.

The snake doesn’t try to imply that it mimics the rattlesnake, but we all know it does. Fortunately, you should be able to tell it’s all a charade by the fact that these snakes are considerably smaller than rattlesnakes and look nothing like a venomous species.

These reptiles feed on insects, small mammals, and small reptiles, which they can hunt with relative ease in their dry habitat. The snake is quite adaptable and versatile as it can move with agility on rough terrain, climb, and even swim whenever necessary.

They are also quite timid, so you’re unlikely to see one staring at you for too long. Or exhibit any aggressive tendencies, for that matter.

Unfortunately, desert night snakes are not a good candidate for a lifestyle in captivity. These snakes cannot adapt to live in a closed ecosystem and will get stressed out and sick in the process.

They also have quite drastic and precise requirements, and any fluctuations can stress out the reptile as well.

Interesting fact: Desert night snakes can flatten their bodies and contort their heads and necks to mimic the behavior of venomous species.

This might not fool a snake connoisseur but will fool many of the snake’s natural predators.

8. Northwestern Garter Snake

Northwestern garter snakes come with the trademark garter-like pattern and exhibit a variety of colors. Most individuals are brown or grey with white, yellow, or even red lines.

These garter snakes are rather small, rarely reaching 23 inches in the wild. They are also less widespread than the common garter snake, as they only inhabit some parts of North America, especially the Pacific northwest regions.

They can thrive in a variety of ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and even urban and suburban areas, so long as the feeding opportunities make sense. These snakes prefer to feed on insects and small prey like rodents, birds, and reptiles.

In typical garter snake fashion, they will spend much of their time near various bodies of water, like ponds, streams, and marshes, without being truly aquatic creatures.

These reptiles are non-aggressive, as they prefer to flee when surprised or confronted. They also possess no venom, so they’re not really a danger to humans.

On the contrary, you could argue for their beneficial impact on the environment, thanks to their predilection for various pest rodents.

Interesting fact: Despite qualifying as non-venomous, garter snakes can produce a mild venom that can debilitate their prey fairly rapidly.

This venom won’t affect humans, but it serves its purpose during the snake’s hunting incursions.

9. Ring-Necked Snake

If you’ve seen ring-necked snakes in the wild, you already know how cute they are. If you’re not familiar with them, here are some basic facts about this species.

These are small snakes, only growing up to 15 inches, that can be found throughout North America in environments like wetlands, forests, and grasslands.

You can easily recognize them in the wild via their vibrant, two-color body with a black or brown dorsal area and red or orange underbelly.

There are plenty of color variations to discuss, as some species have grey, silver, or blue backs with yellow, red, or orange underbelly. All individuals have a color ring around their necks, hence, the name.

These small reptiles are cute and pose no danger to humans. They prefer to hide under rocks and in crevices, among vegetation, and only come out to hunt.

Their favorite meals include earthworms, snails, and insects, but they won’t refuse small vertebrates either, like amphibians, mammals, or other reptiles.

Unfortunately, this one isn’t fit for a captive lifestyle either due to their strict care and maintenance conditions.

Interesting fact: Ring-necked snakes can stink quite intensely when attacked or threatened. The unsavory odor coming out of their tail glands is often enough to cut the appetite of most predators.

10. Terrestrial Garter Snake

Terrestrial garter snakes can reach 3.5 feet at their max and come with interesting visual variations. The difference between this species and other types of garter snakes is that the garter-line pattern isn’t always as clear in all individuals.

Some garter snakes may only exhibit the 2 lateral lines but without the dorsal one. Most of these garter snakes are dark brown with white, yellow, or light brown lines.

The animal’s coloring is ideal for its ecosystem, given that these garter snakes prefer the grasslands, forests, and suburban areas of North America. They prefer to dwell near bodies of water, which is typical for garter snakes in genera.

This gives these reptiles fast access to water and semi-aquatic prey like fish and amphibians.

However, garter snakes consume a variety of other prey, like insects and small rodents, birds, and even other snakes.

Their preferred hunting method relies on stalking and chasing the prey actively, which can take place on land and in the water.

Interesting fact: Terrestrial garter snakes can produce tetrodotoxin, which has a paralyzing effect. The toxin isn’t too strong, but it’s enough for the reptile to induce mild paralysis in the prey, allowing the hunter to catch up and finish the job.

Pufferfish are known to produce the same toxin, except it’s a lot stronger in their case.

11. Western Rattlesnake

You may know this one as the western diamondback rattlesnake because they’re one and the same.

This is the only venomous species on today’s list, and we had to include it because many species that we’ve already mentioned mimic its appearance and behavior.

Diamondback rattlesnakes are feared for their envenomed bite, but it’s their behavior that gains them the most respect.

Rattlesnakes can get to 6 feet and come with powerful bodies and impressive neck size and strength. You can recognize these reptiles by considering 3 main indicators:

The tail – You should be able to observe the tail rings quite easily.

The head – Rattlesnakes have triangle-shaped, flat heads with very protruding jaw muscles.

The body markings – All rattlesnakes possess rhomboids on their backs, which is a pretty tell-telling sign of their venomous nature.

There are many other signs to consider, including the rattling sound that they produce with their tails, the vertical slits for pupils, and the envenomed fangs, in case you notice them opening their mouths. It’s advisable to keep your distance to avoid any confrontations.

Needless to say, rattlesnakes aren’t exactly fond of human interactions. Despite this, the reptile will only attack when confronted, preferring to flee when noticed.

Interesting fact: Despite their venomous nature and rather aggressive behavior, rattlesnakes make for quite great pets.

That is, provided you take proper security measures and keep the snake in ideal housing conditions.


Washington has its fair share of snakes to offer, most of which are harmless to humans.

Learn about the species that inhabit different regions, depending on where you live, so you know what to expect when venturing into the wilderness.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...