Snakes of Big Bend
Big Bend National Park is an amazing place to observe many different snakes. There are 31 species known to exist in the park and three more snakes are listed as hypothetical. Keep in mind that all wildlife in the park are protected from harming, handling, or otherwise being disturbed by visitors.
The red racer, or western coachwhip, is the most often seen snake in the park, due to both its bright reddish-pink color and its habit of lying across roads, where it may stretch across an entire lane.
Bullsnakes are the largest snakes seen in the park, reaching over 6 feet in length and reaching several inches in diameter. Its heavy body, flat head, and patterning lead some people to mistake it for a rattlesnake. The bullsnake hisses and rattles its tail when threatened, and when it does this in dry leaves, the effect is very similar to that of a rattlesnake buzzing.
Hikers may find patchnose snakes in both the mountains and the desert. These slender snakes have a tan background color with two longitudinal dark brown stripes lining a central brown stripe. Look for the triangular “patchnose” scale on the snake’s snout.
Garter snakes, both black-necked and checkered, are found around water, where they most commonly hunt for frogs and toads.
Rat snakes can be found often at dusk near the side of roads. There are two species here Baird's and the Trans-Pecos which is more common and easily identified with its pattern of H marks running down its back.
After summer rains many more snakes will be active and we encourage visitors in the park to photograph snakes and report rarities or oddities to us from time to time. Remember that you are not permitted to handle or disturb snakes in the park in anyway. Current park regulations do not allow the use of artificial light to illuminate wildlife.
For more information:
Dayton, G. 2002. Amphibians and reptiles checklist Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Big Bend Natural History Association. Big Bend National Park
Dixon, J. D. and J. E. Werler 2005. Texas Snakes. University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas. 384 pp.
Did You Know?
The trail into Big Bend's Santa Elena Canyon crosses Terlingua Creek. Most of the year a dry creek bed, after rainstorms flash flooding of the creek can make the canyon inaccessible and close the nature trail. More...