A-z - Animals

Arizona's 40 snake species (21 are venomous)

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key point:

  • Due to Arizona's dry and hot climate, there are no water snakes in the state. The terrain also makes it easy for snakes to hide in sand or bushes.
  • There are 13 different types of rattlesnakes in Arizona! In fact, this state has more venomous snakes than any other state.
  • In addition to rattlesnakes, there are 3 other noteworthy venomous snakes you'll want to watch out for: the Arizona coral snake, the Mexican vine snake, and the lyre snake.
  • Arizona snakes come in many varieties: small to large, vary in color and pattern, type of prey, and more. The western shovel-nose snake, true to its name, even has a blunt snout for burrowing in the sand.
United States of America flag waving above Arizona state flag
Arizona has the most venomous snakes of any state with 21, so hikers must be careful.


Arizona is one of the states with the most snakes. While other states like Texas may have higher snake totals, Arizona does have a very high number of venomous snakes, with 21 in total. With Arizona's large population and popular attractions ranging from lakes to the Grand Canyon, it helps to know which snakes you might encounter and which ones are potentially dangerous. Below, let's take a closer look at some of the more common snakes in Arizona.

Nonvenomous and Common Snakes in Arizona

As you might expect, Arizona is home to many snakes known to thrive in extremely dry and hot climates. There are no aquatic snakes in Arizona. Some of the different types of nonvenomous snakes you'll find in Arizona are:

Arizona Milk Snake

western milk snake
Milk snakes mimic the coloration of venomous snakes such as coral snakes, but are not dangerous.

© Matt Jepsen/Shutterstock.com

Arizona milk snakes, like other milk snakes, can be scary at first because their color patterns closely resemble those of venomous coral snakes. Arizona has venomous coral snakes, so if you're in the state, it's important to know the difference between milk snakes and coral snakes. Milk snakes have broad red stripes like coral snakes.

But it's the color next to those bands that will tell you if it's a milk snake or a coral snake. Milk snakes have a thin black band next to the red band and a wider white band behind the black band. Coral snakes will have yellow stripes next to their red stripes. If you see a red-striped snake with black stripes next to the red stripes in the leaf litter or on a tree while you are outdoors, it is a milk snake and not dangerous.

smooth snake

desert smooth snake
Glossy snakes can grow to about five feet long

©Jason Mintzer/Shutterstock.com

Glossy snakes are similar in size and color to gopher snakes. They are usually three to five feet tall and prefer dry desert habitats. Glossy snakes come in a variety of colors, but they are all so light that they look like they have faded from the sun. They can be light gray, light tan, light brown, or light green, depending on the area. These snakes are nocturnal, so you may not see them during the day, but if you are hiking early in the morning, or if you are hiking at night because the weather is cooler, you may see a smooth snake.

desert king snake

desert king snake
Desert king snakes have black and yellow patterns.

©Rusty Dodson/Shutterstock.com

Desert king snakes appear to be a threat due to their stocky bodies and can be very long. They can grow up to six feet long, but usually they're more like five feet long. But the desert king snake is actually quite docile and will try to avoid humans as much as possible. If you come across a desert kingsnake, it will usually try to escape. However, if it doesn't slip away, it may roll over on its back and lie motionless and play dead until you move away.

black necked garter snake

black necked garter snake

© Creeping Stuff/Shutterstock.com

You can find black-necked garter snakes in central and southeastern Arizona, usually near some kind of water source. Since water is hard to find in Arizona, you can often find black-necked snakes congregating near ponds, streams, or lakes. You can also find them in home yards that have a water source in the yard. Most black-necked snakes are between four and five feet long and have a thin, narrow body. The base color of the black-necked garter snake is dark olive, and the snake has white or orange stripes and black spots. The snake has a black ring around its neck.

Sonoran gopher snake

gopher snake
The gopher snake coils up and prepares to strike.


Sonoran gopher snakes are generally only four feet long, but they appear larger because of their wide bodies. Their main food is rodents and rats and they kill them by constricting which is why they have such heavy bodies. Gopher snakes are found throughout Arizona. You can find them from Fort Huachuca to Santa Cruz County and other parts of the state. Sonoran gopher snakes are typically brown to tan with faded brown or tan markings.

Southwest Blackhead Snake

Southwest Blackhead Snake
Southwestern blackhead snakes are a very small species.

©Erin Donalson/Shutterstock.com

If you live in Arizona, you may spot southwestern blackhead snakes in your home, or you may spot them in your yard. This is a good thing. Southwestern blackhead snakes eat scorpions, centipedes, and a variety of creepy crawlies. They are only about eight inches long. Usually they are light tan or light brown with faded blackheads. Southwestern blackhead snakes are completely harmless to humans. They actually do a great service to humanity by eating scorpions and other pests. So if you find a blackhead snake in your yard, you probably want to keep it there!

These snakes are technically venomous, but the venom is considered harmless to mammals. Instead, snakes primarily prey on spiders and insects.

Speaking of black-headed snakes, check out the largest black-headed snake ever found.

Western shovel-nosed snake

Shovel-nosed snake
The shovel-nosed snake has an adaptable snout perfect for digging in sand.

© Matt Jepsen/Shutterstock.com

The western shovel-nose snake has a very distinctive facial structure. The snout is flat and protrudes forward like a shovel, so the snake can basically swim through the sand. That's why this desert snake is so at home in Arizona. Because western shovel-nosed snakes like to be in the sand, even if there is one nearby, you may never see it. Usually these snakes are only 14 inches long. They are small and can hide in the sand, making them difficult to spot. They pose no threat to humans.

night snake

night snake head shot
Night snakes get their name from their nocturnal predation.

©Casey K. Bishop/Shutterstock.com

Night snakes are very small. They are usually only two feet long. Sometimes they are mistaken for young rattlesnakes. Most of the time, these snakes will be light gray or light tan in color with dark brown or black spots. They have a triangular head like a rattlesnake, but their tails are pointed and not rattling. They are most active at night, so you may see them crossing roads or paths at night.

Although night snakes are venomous, they generally pose no threat to humans.

venomous snake in arizona

Arizona has the most venomous snakes of any state. Most venomous snakes in Arizona are rattlesnakes. Whenever you're camping, hiking, or simply working outside in Arizona, you need to be aware of the snakes that pose more of a danger in the outdoor environment.

If you get close to a rattlesnake, you might hear the rattlesnake before you even see it. Take that rattlesnake seriously, and back away slowly so you're not at an alarming distance from the rattlesnake. Rattlesnake bites are painful and can be fatal. However, keep in mind that only about 5 people die from snakebites each year in the United States. That said, while it's good to know about these snakes, the risk of death from a snakebite is extremely small if you take proper precautions and seek medical attention if bitten.

Venomous snakes to watch out for in Arizona are:

Arizona Coral Snake

Coral snakes are brightly colored and have distinctive stripes

© iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

You can instantly identify Arizona coral snakes by their coloration. If you come across a snake with bright red stripes, look for the color next to the stripes. If the color next to red is yellow, it is an Arizona coral snake. Be very careful with the snake and back away slowly. If the band next to the red is black, it's a milk snake and you're safe. But, when in doubt, step back and walk away.

Mexican vine snake

Mexican vine snake
Mexican vine snakes are very thin and their bites are not fatal.

© Creeping Stuff/Shutterstock.com

The venom of the Mexican vine snake won't kill you, but it might itch you as much as you wish. The toxin in Mexican vine snake venom doesn't cause a lot of pain, just a lot of itching. Although the venom from this snake's bite is not fatal, you should still avoid it if possible.

You may need medicine to stop the itching or to stop your body's response to itching. Mexican vine snakes are very slender, typically three to six feet long. They are masters of camouflage and easily hide themselves among the foliage. In Arizona, use extreme caution when reaching for trees, leaves or vines.

lyre snake

lyre snake
Lyre snakes are venomous, but their venom is not as strong as that of rattlesnakes.

©Alexander Wong/Shutterstock.com

Lyre snakes prefer rocky areas such as canyons and mountains, but they are very common in Arizona's 100-mile circle area, which means 100 miles in every direction from Tucson, Arizona. These snakes are light brown or tan in color with dark brown spots all over the body. They also have dark brown "V" markings on their heads. Lyre snakes are venomous, but like vine snakes, their venom is not lethal. You may experience itching, swelling, pain, and other symptoms, but there have been zero reports of death from a lyre snake bite.


Front view of a Mojave rattlesnake
The Mojave rattlesnake is widely considered the deadliest snake in the United States.

©Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com

There are about 13 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona!

Most are desert, which means they have a mix of tan, brown, and black. Rattlesnakes are usually 2 to 6 feet long. When you're out and about in Arizona, there's a good chance you'll see a rattlesnake, especially if you're in a state park or other recreational area. Therefore, you should always exercise caution when hiking, camping, or engaging in any outdoor activity in Arizona. Rattlesnakes are masters of camouflage, so watch the area around your feet very carefully and always listen for that telltale rattle.

How common are rattlesnake bites in Arizona? Maricopa County (a county with more than 4 million Arizona citizens) reported 79 rattlesnake bites in 2021. Rattlesnake bites can be very painful, but are rarely fatal if treated properly. The most important factor when bitten is immediate medical attention. Arizona rattlesnakes include:

  • rattlesnake rattlesnake
  • Arizona Black Rattlesnake
  • great basin rattlesnake
  • hopi rattlesnake
  • mojave rattlesnakes
  • tiger rattlesnake
  • spinenose rattlesnake
  • northern black-tailed rattlesnake
  • spotted rattlesnake
  • prairie rattlesnake
  • western rattlesnake
  • two-spot rattlesnake
  • grand canyon rattlesnake

Complete List of Arizona Snakes

Snakes can hide well in the desert, and most of the Arizona landscape is desert. Therefore, you need to be very careful when you are outdoors in Arizona. Always scan the area in front of and to your sides to see snakes before you get too close and startle them. The full list of snakes in Arizona is:

Arizona Milk Snake

mountain king snake

Spotted snake

black necked garter snake

blind snake

Checkered Garter Snake

whip snake

common king snake

desert king snake

gopher snake

smooth snake

king snake

ground snake

desert rose boa

Saddle-nosed snake

Sonoran gopher snake

Spotted leaf-nosed snake


western hognose snake

Arizona Coral Snake

Mexican vine snake

tropical vine snake

rattlesnake rattlesnake

grand canyon rattlesnake

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

great basin rattlesnake

tiger rattlesnake

lyre snake

mojave rattlesnakes

night snake

northern black-tailed rattlesnake

prairie rattlesnake

Arizona Spinenose Rattlesnake

Southwest Blackhead Snake

spotted rattlesnake

coral snake

western rattlesnake

Western shovel-nosed snake

two-spot rattlesnake

Arizona black snake

If you want to look more specifically at snakes in Arizona, check out our article on the state's black snakes. Talk about diversity! Of the 12, there are poisonous and non-toxic (but potentially poisonous!). Despite being classified as black snakes, some may have yellow or red underbelly or white heads, so we are still looking for colored snakes. There are 3 kinds of earthworms! They also have fun names, with descriptors like cottonmouth, runner, rat, coachwhip, ribbon, flathead, flatbelly, ringneck, worm, crayfish, and mud! We all have pictures of them, so take a look

'Monster' snake 5 times bigger than a boa constrictor discovered

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