Snakes on a Trail

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.

Gopher (or Bull) Snake
Gopher (or Bull) Snake

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!

Rubber Boa
Rubber Boa on the Creek Trail – Photo by Lester FitzHenry

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.

Rubber Boa
Rubber Boa – Photo by Lester FitzHenry

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.

Kermit 1
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!

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6 thoughts on “Snakes on a Trail

  1. Just heard from my neighbor that as a group of them were climbing the postal/deer run area they came across a rattler. One rider may have even ran directly over it. It then sat coiled up in the road quite angry. Luckily the 4-legged member Zusa was far ahead of the group. And no pictures ughhhh.

  2. Jeff,

    I liked your article quite a bit. It’s different than the usual “snakes on a trail” read, in that you’re not just chopping heads off as you go. You summed it up wonderfully with “Although rattlesnakes have a poisonous bite, they are mostly harmless to humans unless cornered or stepped on.” It’s always amazing to me that people who think that they’re being attacked by a snake never realize that the encounter would end if they’d simply stop poking at the thing and walk away.

    If people replaced the word “angry” with “scared to death”, they’d more accurately portray the animals.

    I have 3 rattlesnakes (from Arizona, not up there), and 5 rubber boas, and I must say they are quite endearing once you get to know them, as any animal is to a nature lover. Next time you see a rubber boa, pick it up and feel its skin; it’s unlike anything else. They simply do not bite, though they may threaten to do it with their head-looking tail area.

    Thanks again, and if you ever have any snake questions out and about, let me know.

    Bryan

  3. Thanks for the great article Jeff. Many of us are leary of snakes, and your educating article helps. 99.9% of the wild animals we see really don’t want anything to do with us, so just leave them alone! Because we are running usually silently along the trail at high speeds, we usually startle these unsuspecting creatures. They may coil and be scared, but just move along and so will they. They are just like us, trying to make a living and have a little fun along the way.

  4. Snakes are trying to make a living in Nevada? They may want to move somewhere else with the unemployment so high in Nevada. I have not seen living snakes this summer but I have seen a few died ones on the roads. I agree we should leave them alone. Their a lot more afraid of us then we are of them and will only become aggressive if they feel threatened. In the past, I have seen 3 rattlers way up in Kings Canyon which suprised me that they would be that high up. One was only a few yards from where you can look down into Horse Creek Ranch. It was stretched out over the dirt road and was at least 5 feet long and I almost ran over its rattles. I guess it was sunning itself. I thought I should get it off the road so I threw rocks at it from a safe distant and it coiled up on the side of the road and slid down into a bush. The rattle noise was really interesting and not the sound I expected. The next weekend I saw a hiker up there and he was reaching in bushes looking for trash or something, maybe rocks, and I told him he may want to be careful because of the rattlesnake that I met. He was surprised and hadn’t even thought that snakes could be around.

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