Arizona Snakes of the Agua Fria River Basin

Arizona Snakes

Humans, and many other species, are born with a ready-made instinctive fear of snakes.  All it takes to activate the instinct is seeing an adult being afraid of a snake.  Many people overcome their fear after learning which snakes are dangerous, and which ones are harmless.  This is a good thing for snakes, and it’s good for everybody else, because snakes are necessary for a balanced ecosystem.  Snakes help regulate populations of rodents, frogs, and other small animals, and snakes serve as food for many birds, mammals, and reptiles.  The references at the end of this post include field guides in print (Stebbins 1966) and online (Arizona Herpetological Association (AHA), Brennan, 2008).  AHA and HerpDigest provide news and information.

About half the snake species and recognized subspecies in the U. S. are present in Arizona.  Many of them are present in the Agua Fria River Basin, but the only ones I see around Coldwater Farm are garter snakes, gopher snakes, and king snakes.  It’s odd that over the past 50 years, no one has reported seeing a rattlesnake on the Farm.  They are probably present, but most rattlesnakes are shy and rarely advertise their presence.

The photograph shows a California King Snake, a common species of the Agua Fria River Basin and Coldwater Farm.  The photo is from the website of the Arizona Herpetological Association.


Snake Conservation

Arizona snakes are declining along with the rest of the state’s wildlife.  Their habitats are shrinking and changing as human impacts grow.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) lists 27 snake species and subspecies as vulnerable, and 14 as Species of Greatest Conservation Need.  The most critical habitats and the most vulnerable snake populations need protection.

Information on distribution and abundance is necessary for effective protection.  In 2011, the Center for Snake Conservation (CSA) began sponsoring snake counts, a citizen science program for mapping Snakes.  Go to for more information.



North America







*Numbers vary with taxonomic treatment.  I used those by AHA and CSA.  **Includes 14 subspecies that AZGFD recognizes as being of Greatest Conservation Need.

Arizona Snake References

AHA (Arizona Herpetological Association): .

AZGFD (Arizona Game and Fish Department):

Brennan, T.C.  2008.  Online field guide to reptiles and amphibians of Arizona:

CSA (Center for Snake Conservation):


International Reptile Conservation Fund:

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation:

Stebbins, R.C.  1966.  A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians.  Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.  279 p.

Arizona Snake Checklist

Most names are linked to photographs and descriptions on the AHA website.  Information about the species without links can be found on the AZGFD website.  I marked vulnerable species (AZGFD) with an asterisk (*).

A R I Z O N A   S N A K E S

 Arizona Black Rattlesnake Crotalus cerberus
 Arizona Coral Snake Micruroides euryxanthus euryxanthus
 Arizona Glossy Snake Arizona occidentalis noctivaga
 Arizona Mountain King Snake Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana
*  Arizona Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake Crotalus willardi willardi
 Banded Rock Rattlesnake Crotalus lepidus klauberi
 Big Bend Patch-Nose Snake Salvadora deserticola
 Blackneck Garter Snake Thamnophis cyrtopsis
 Black-Tailed Rattlesnake Crotalus molossus molossus
 Brown Vine Snake Oxybelis aeneus
 California King Snake Lampropeltis getula californiae
 Checkered Garter Snake Thamnophis marcianus
*  Chihuahuan Black-Headed Snake Tantilla wilcoxi
 Colorado Desert ShovelNosed Snake Chionactis occipitalis annulata
 Colorado Desert Sidewinder Crotalus cerastes laterorepens
 Desert Glossy Snake Arizona occidentalis eburnata
 Desert Hooknose Snake Gyalopion quadrangulare
 Desert King Snake Lampropeltis getula splendida
*  Desert Massasauga Sistrurus catenatus edwardsii
*  Desert Nightsnake Hypsiglena chlorophaea
*  Desert Patch-Nose Snake Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis
*  Desert Rosy Boa Lichanura trivirgata gracia
 Desert Striped Whipsnake Coluber taeniatus taeniatus
 Desert Threadsnake Leptotyphlops humilis cahuilae
* Eastern Patch-nosed Snake Salvadora grahamiae
 Grand Canyon Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus abyssus
 Great Basin Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer deserticola
 Great Basin Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus lutosus
 Green Rat Snake Senticolis triaspis intermedia
 Ground Snake Sonora semiannulata
*  Hopi Rattlesnake Crotalus viridis nuntius
*  Lined Coachwhip Coluber flagellum lineatulus
 *  Mesa Verde Nightsnake Hypsiglena torquata loreala
 Mexican Black-Headed Snake Tantilla atriceps
 Mexican Hognose Snake Heterodon nasicus kennerlyi
*  Mexican Rosy Boa Lichanura trivirgata trivirgata
 *  Midget Faded Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus concolor
 Mojave Desert Sidewinder Crotalus cerastes cerastes
 Mojave Patch-Nose Snake Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis
 Mojave Rattlesnake Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus
*  Mojave ShovelNose Snake Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis
 Mountain Patch-Nose Snake Salvadora grahamiae grahamiae
*  Narrowheaded Garter Snake Thamnophis rufipunctatus
*  New Mexican Threadsnake Leptotyphlops dulcis dissectus
* New Mexico Milksnake Lampropeltis triangulum celaenops
*  New Mexico Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake Crotalus willardi obscurus
 North American Racer Coluber constrictor
*  Northern Mexican Garter Snake Thamnophis eques megalops
 Painted Desert Glossy Snake Arizona elegans philipi
*  Plains Black-Headed Snake Tantilla nigriceps
 Prairie Rattlesnake Crotalus viridis viridis
 Red Racer Coluber flagellum piceus
 Regal Ring-Neck Snake Diadophis punctatus regalis
 Saddled Leaf-Nosed Snake Phyllorhynchus browni
 Sonoran Coachwhip Coluber flagellum cingulum
 Sonoran Desert Sidewinder Crotalus cerastes cercobombus
 Sonoran Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer affinis
 Sonoran Lyre Snake Trimorphodon biscutatus lambda
 Sonoran Shovel-Nose Snake Chionactis palarostris organica
 Sonoran Whipsnake Coluber bilineatus bilineatus
 Southwestern Black-Headed Snake Tantilla hobartsmithi
 Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake Crotalus mitchelli pyrrhus
 Southwestern Threadsnake Leptotyphlops humilis humilis
 Spotted Leaf-Nosed Snake Phyllorhynchus decurtatus
 Spotted Night Snake Hypsiglena torquata ochrorhyncha
 Striped Whipsnake Coluber taeniatus
 Tiger Rattlesnake Crotalus tigris
 TransPecos Threadsnake Leptotyphlops humilis segregus
*  Tucson ShovelNose Snake Chionactis occipitalis klauberi
 Twin Spotted Rattlesnake Crotalus pricei pricei
*  Utah Milksnake Lampropeltis triangulum taylori
* Utah Mountain Kingsnake Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis
*  Utah Threadsnake Leptotypholps humilis utahensis
 Variable Sand Snake Chilomeniscus stramineus
 Wandering Garter Snake Thamnophis elegans vagrans
* Western Black Kingsnake Lampropeltis getula nigrita
 Western Black-Headed Snake Tantilla planiceps
* Western Black-necked Gartersnake Thamnophis cyrtopsis cyrtopsis
 Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus atrox
 Western Hooknose Snake Gyalopion canum
 Western Long-Nose Snake Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei
*  Western Yellow-bellied Racer Coluber constrictor mormon
*  Yaqui Black-Headed Snake Tantilla yaquia

1 thought on “Arizona Snakes of the Agua Fria River Basin

  1. Pingback: Rattlesnake Species in Arizona | Wildlife Conservation in the Upper Agua Fria River Basin


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