The cooler temperatures have triggered many snake sightings in the Carson City area. Almost everyday for the last couple weeks, I’ve heard mountain bikers mention seeing them while out riding. The snakes have been out basking in the sun, often in the warm dirt of the roads and trails. Here are a few pictures of the snakes you’re likely to encounter when out on the trails.
The Gopher Snake, or Bull Snake as it is also called, is very common in the area. You’re almost certain to see one of these snakes when out in the backcountry. Among the largest US snakes, bull snakes often exceed 6 feet (1.8 m) in length, and specimens of up to 100 inches (8 ft!) have been recorded, says Wikipedia. They are non poisonous, but I’ve seen some of the larger specimens hiss and strike if provoked. Not only does the bull snake mimic the rattlesnake with its markings, it rattles its tail against objects to sound more menacing. The snake in the picture above was rattling its tail against a dead leaf. It wasn’t enough to sound like a true rattlesnake, but it made me look just to be sure!
If you’re real lucky, like Lester FitzHenry was on the Ash Canyon Creek Trail, you may get to see a Rubber Boa. According to Wikipedia, Rubber Boas are one of the smaller boa species, and the adults can be anywhere from 15 to 33 inches long. Rubber boas are fairly docile, so don’t be afraid to inspect them closer if you see one. Another interesting fact about rubber boas from Wikipedia: Rubber Boas are viviparous (give birth to live young) and can have up to 9 young per year, but many females will only reproduce every four years.
Probably the most feared snake in the region is the rattlesnake. Although rattlesnakes have a poisonous bite, they are mostly harmless to humans unless cornered or stepped on. They may be more of a threat to your trail dog than you. Bob Moore recently got the following picture of what is most likely a Great Basin Rattlesnake up on the V&T trail. The Great Basin Rattler can grow 2 to 4 feet in length. Admire these snakes from a safe distance, but please don’t kill them. They help provide a natural balance to the ecosystem.
Rattlesnake – Photo by Bob Moore
Another snake you’re likely to encounter, but not pictured here, is the Garter Snake. Look for these snakes near the creeks. They are typically black with greenish/yellow stripes going down their backs. Most garter snakes are fairly small, but I’ve seen the biggest garter snake of my life up on the Creek Trail.
Enjoy your snake spotting! If you get any good pictures, send them to me and I’ll post them.
Update: Check out Fieldherper.com for some extraordinary pictures and information on snakes and other reptiles by Bryan D. Hughes!