There are a variety of snakes in Eldorado, but this will cover the basics of the types most commonly seen. I will also cover some simple identification methods and offer some advice on what to do, what not to do, and how to make your property undesirable to snakes. The only potentially dangerous snakes in the area are rattlesnakes. There are 3 types in Eldorado, but only 2 are commonly seen. They are:
Prairie, or Western, Rattlesnake. Typically 3 1/2 foot in length, or under…Can be nearly 5 foot, but only rarely. Very diverse in coloration, but green, tan, brown, and even pinkish are the most common. Dark saddles, instead of actual diamonds, down the back. Typically docile, and it is not uncommon to be in close proximity to one without it rattling or alerting you of its presence. Fortunately, while they most certainly can strike, they are often not prone to do so. Most commonly found under shrubs or debris, and also in direct proximity to bird feeders. Birds cast off seeds, rodents come in to eat the seeds, and snakes follow the rodents in after dark. Heavy, highlighted masking over the eyes.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Can reach lengths up to 8 foot, but 3-5 foot are the most common lengths seen, with the exception of babies. Generally much heavier bodied than diamondbacks! Very aggressive, and not usually shy about alerting you to their presence. Grey, silver, red, and pink are the most common colorations found, but some are even found with a greenish cast. Distinct, highlighted, diamond patterns down the back, called coon-tail rattlers because of distinct white and black bands near the rattle sections. Most commonly encountered around rock outcroppings and around stone walls, but can be seen nearly everywhere. Not as common as prairie rattlesnakes, but still in abundance. Heavy, highlighted masking over the eyes.
There are several non-venomous species found in the area:
Bullsnakes. A rattlesnake “mimic”, as they are similar in appearance, and can bluff in such a way as to fool you into thinking they are a rattlesnake. Out of 100 “rattlesnake” calls to remove a snake, over 75% turn out to be bullsnakes. They can flatten their jaws, to give their head a diamond-shape appearance, and dark bands on the tail section can look like a set of rattles as they shake their tails vigorously when threatened. Add in an uncanny ability to have a dry hiss that sounds very similar to a rattlesnake’s rattles, and the untrained eye can easily be confused. Typically yellowish, with darker saddles, and a tail section that usually turns more orange with black bands…they can be highly variable in color, although the pattern is unmistakable when you know what you’re looking at. Thin band, or line, between and around the eyes, no highlighting.
Garter snake. There are a few types of garter snakes in the area, but all have similar appearances. Generally brown, or olive, they have stripes running down the back and/or sides. The most commonly seen garter snake is the wandering garter, which can also have blotches, or spots, in addition to the striping. Great to have in your garden, because of dietary preferences, they WILL musk if disturbed…leaving an awful smell that is very difficult to wash off.
Whipsnakes. There are two types of these, locally…the Western Coachwhip – “red racer”, and the striped whipsnake. The “red racer” is the most commonly seen, but the striped whipsnake is NOT uncommon. As the name implies, the red coachwhip/red racer/western coachwhip is easily distinguished by its pink, salmon, and/or even brick red coloration. Can reach lengths up to 9 feet, and EXTREMELY fast! Primarily feed on lizards, but birds, rodents, and even other snakes, are not uncommon. Large eyes, very agile, extremely nervous, will bite repeatedly if picked up, although the bite is not serious in any way. Some MYTHS about this snake are that they will chase a person down, climb up their back, wrap around their neck, and then whip them to death. Another myth is that they can use their tails to whip a person, or to whip at, and pop tires on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, etc…while these stories are entertaining, they are absolutely not true! The real reason a coachwhip is called a coachwhip is because the scales on the tail section are angled and bordered in such a way as to look like the braid of a whip on stagecoaches in the old west. The striped whipsnake is a brown, mahogany, or black snake with lateral stripes on the sides. Hint: No Venomous snakes in El Dorado have stripes!
Snake Do’s and Don’ts:
Do leave a snake alone. Snakes are very beneficial in controlling rodent populations, and the diseases associated with rodents. In this regard, they can be your friend.
Do call animal control or the Wildlife Center for help in removing a snake from your property.
Do maintain a visual on the snake, to aid in locating and removing snake from property.
Don’t harass, attempt to capture, or kill any snake. Any such attempts actually put you in harm’s way. Even with a farm tool, you’re still deliberately going towards an animal that is potentially venomous.
Don’t put your hands, feet, or anything else, any place you can’t see into…under boards, holes, etc.
Don’t hesitate to assume a snake is venomous if you don’t know, better safe than sorry.
Don’t apply ice or tourniquet, this will make things worse!
Don’t attempt to cut-n-suck, this is a waste of time, and you could cut something vital.
DO seek medical attention and have somebody else transport you. Some of the symptoms of snake-bite are similar to a stroke or heart attack.
To aid in keeping snakes from your yard:
Remove all debris…old pallets, boards, pipes, gutters, sheet metal, spare tires, etc. Essentially, anything that could be used as a hiding place probably will be.
Bird feeders: move them as far from the house as possible. In addition to drawing in rodents, and thereby snakes, having a bird feeder too close to your house is not beneficial to wildlife as birds get distracted and fly into windows, and may not have enough cover to hide from neighborhood cats, etc. Placing feeders away from the house, and closer to trees, is better for all concerned.
Keep your yard easily viewable – mow your lawn, and have as few visual impediments as possible. Snakes are prey to a lot of animals, and will prefer to stay in hidden areas, as opposed to out in the open, to avoid dogs, cats, birds of prey, etc.