Snakes in Montana

By Snaketracks / February 25, 2021

Snakes in Montana

There are 10 snakes in Montana that are native to the sate including both venomous and non-venomous.

Whether you are looking for a new pet snake or you just want to study what’s around you this will be an interesting list for you.

Out of those 10 snakes 3 are Garter snakes and one is even a Rattlesnake. Check out the list below for an overview of each type.

1. Common Garter Snake

Baby-Common-Garter-Snake-Thamnophis-sirtalis
Baby Common Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis
  • Other Names: Garter Snake
  • Adult Size: 23 to 30 inches; some can grow to 5 feet
  • Lifespan: 4 to 5 years in the wild; up to 10 years in captivity
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $300 per snake (depending on size)
  • Where to buy: backwaterreptiles.com, undergroundreptiles.com

These guys are usually relatively small and like to remain active during the day. They like to soak often, so they will require a bowl in their tank for them to soak in, especially when it comes time to shed.

Garter snakes are great snakes for beginners since they are docile and will not grow to be too large.

Common Garter Snakes can range from dark olive-green to brown or black with a distinctive yellow stripe running throughout the length of their body.

When threatened, they may let off a musk in order to ward off predators. They can be found in many places like marshes, woodlands, meadows, or hillsides.

These snakes feed on leeches, slugs, worms, small fish, amphibians, and even other snakes. They are also immune to toxic frogs that secrete toxins from their skin in order to drive away prey.

2. Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Wandering Garter Snake)
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Wandering Garter Snake)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis elegans
  • Other Names: Wandering Garter Snake
  • Adult Size: 18 to 41 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 to 12 years in captivity; 2 years in the wild
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $300 per snake (depending on size)
  • Where to buy: backwatterreptiles.com, undergroundreptiles.com

The Western Terrestrial Garter snake is considered an easy snake to care for in captivity due to its diverse diet.

They will eat small mammals, fish, amphibians, leeches, birds, slugs, and are also known to be cannibals, eating other snakes as well. It is best that you do not keep them together, if possible due to this concern.

Although they are not dangerously venomous, they do have slightly venomous saliva. Sensitive owners should definitely get checked anyways if a bite does happen since all bites are at risk for infection.

These snakes are more often found near water like in meadows or mountain lakes. They like woodlands and grassy areas close to any water source, which they will stay by the banks of.

They are usually dark brown or black with that same distinguishing stripe Garter snakes have along the tops of their bodies. In Western Terrestrial Garter snakes, that stripe is usually a pale yellow and some of them will have red patterns on their dark skin.

3. Northern Rubber Boa 

Northern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)
Northern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Boidae
  • Scientific Name: Charina bottae
  • Other Names: Coastal Rubber Boa
  • Adult Size: 14 to 33 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $50 to $200 per snake (depending on species and size)

These snakes are slow-moving and like sitting around in our warm hands and arms. They are friendly and might actually enjoy being handled.

They get their name from their rubbery skin, which you will notice if you ever hold one. It does feel similar to rubber, but a lot softer.

These snakes come in a tan to grey or brown color tone. Their skin is shiny and their head is quite uniform to the rest of their girth.

They eat mice and other small mammals, even sometimes feasting on tinier snakes or lizard eggs.

They can be found in a range of habitats from coniferous forests to desert lands.

4. Plains Garter Snake 

Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis_radix)
Plains garter snake trying to climb a wooden wall
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis radix
  • Adult Size: 16 to 28 inches
  • Lifespan: 5 years; sometimes up to 8 years
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $300 per snake (depending on type and size)
  • Where to buy: backwaterreptiles.com, undergroundreptiles.com

These non-venomous snakes are friendly by nature, making them a great pet for beginners. They are also relatively small, meaning they aren’t fussy and are easy to care for.

They are black with a distinctive, long yellow or orange stripe running along the whole length of their body. They eat anything they can get their jaws around including amphibians, worms, fish, eggs, and rodents.

They make great garden snakes since they will help you by eating and bugs or other pests.

They enjoy environments that are moist and grassy such as the areas found around streams and lakes.

5. Plains Hognose Snake

Plains Hognose Snake (Heterodon_nasicus)
Plains Hognose Snake (Heterodon_nasicus)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Heterodon nasicus
  • Other Names: Hognose snake
  • Adult Size: 15 to 25 inches
  • Lifespan: about 10 to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $500 per snake
  • Where to buy: snakesunset.com

The Plains Hognose snake is known to be one of the best pet snakes for enthusiasts since they are not fussy and are comfortable with human interaction.

They also stay relatively small and have a cute, lovable face with their tiny snout, as their name suggests.

These worm-like snakes have a small snout and a pug-like face. They are usually a light yellow or tan color with a brown spotted pattern throughout their bodies.

They are known to be pretty easy to care for in terrariums and come from dry environments with low vegetation, abundant in rocks or stones. They enjoy digging and prefer sandy areas with space to burrow.

Hog-nosed snakes like to eat frogs and toads, even poisonous ones. However, they will also feed on lizards, small mammals like birds, insects, and salamanders. 

6. Western Milk Snake

Western Milk Snake
Western Milk Snake
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis gentilis
  • Other Names: King Snake
  • Adult Size: 47 to 52 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 years 
  • Average Price Range: $50 to $300 per snake
  • Where to buy: morphmarket.com, backwaterreptiles.com

Western Milk Snakes are a species of kingsnake that can often be confused with the dangerous coral snake because of their similar appearance. They are definitely friendly and will not try to bite you as a coral snake would.

Western Milk snakes have red, pale yellow, and black bands that loop around the length of their body. These can sometimes also appear as spots, depending on the Milk Snake.

They make good pets as they have a calm temperament and like most docile snakes, will only react defensively if they feel threatened.

They prefer to live in forests, but also like rock outcroppings, barns, agricultural land, and fields.

Milk Snakes are carnivorous and feed on lizards, reptile eggs, birds and their eggs, mice, and sometimes insects.

7. Gopher Snake

Gopher Snake
Gopher snake in attack position
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Pituophis catenifer
  • Adult Size: 4 to 7 feet; can reach up to 9 feet
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years; up to 30 years in captivity
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $300 per snake
  • Where to buy: backwaterreptiles.com, morphmarket.com

The Gopher snake will require a very secure enclosure as they are little escape artists. Well, they aren’t exactly little as they do require a lot of space due to their active nature.

They are pretty docile creatures except when threatened. Gopher Snakes can make great pets for beginners and are not venomous.

Gopher snakes are usually a light tan to brown color with large, dark brown, sometimes reddish-brown spots and lined patterns throughout their length.

They really like to eat small rodents, which is actually how they got their name.

They can be found in a variety of places including woodlands, coniferous forests, brushlands, prairies, modified land, and even deserts.

8. North American Racer

Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor)
Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor)

These slender snakes are versatile and are not dangerous or venomous. They are called racers due to their incredible speed.

They are mostly docile creatures. However, if they feel threatened, they are ready to defend themselves with their bite. It is very hard for these snakes to become accustomed to handling.

These snakes are silvery-grey and can sometimes be an almost metallic-looking electric blue. North American Racers will have a pale yellow to white-colored underside with a black tongue.

A bite from them is shocking but harmless to humans or larger pets like dogs or cats. They only hunt for insects and small rodents, including rabbits.

9. Smooth Green Snake 

Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis)
Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Opheodrys vernalis
  • Other Names: Green Snake
  • Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Average Price Range: $8 to $10 per snake
  • Where to buy: undergroundreptiles.com

Smooth Green snakes can make great pets for any owner that is a little squeamish about feeding them dead rodents. These guys will mostly eat insects like spiders, moths, ants, snails, slugs, worms, and spineless caterpillars.

However, it is said that they do not make great pets since they are way too timid for human interaction. However, they are harmless and some enjoy being handled.

They can be found in open woods, stream edges, marshes, and meadows. They thrive in moist, grassy areas.

As you can already tell by their name, these snakes will be a bright green, which can range in shade. They stay relatively small and may have a pale yellow underside with beady eyes.

These are not the easiest snakes to keep captive since they are very anxious and easily stressed-out.

10. Prairie Rattlesnake

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis)
Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Scientific Name: Crotalis viridis
  • Adult Size: 15 to 60 inches
  • Lifespan: 16 to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $200 per snake
  • Where to buy: undergroundreptiles.com

The Prairie Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake on this list and cannot be kept as a snake, depending on your state.

If you live in Arizona, Delaware, or Kansas, you cannot have a pet snake, legally. Although, most other U.S. states will allow you to get a venomous animal license.

These venomous pit vipers’ colors can range from an olive green-grey to a yellowish-brown with light, faded spots of a darker color than their normal skin tone.

They are carnivorous and feed on small ground mammals like birds, rodents, rabbits, squirrels, and prairie dogs. They may also eat amphibians and other reptiles.

They like to live in wooded mountains or prairies, but they will also rest in caves, crevices, and burrows when they are inactive or not hunting.

Check out this interesting video of this brave Montana snake hunter, Ryan Moor, who hunts Prairie Rattlers!

Conclusion

Those were the 10 native snakes in Montana. Some make good pets, and some don’t. That being said, if you want a pet snake, you should only buy one from a captive bred breeder.

Never catch a wild snake and keep it, it’s bad for the eco system and wild snakes and reptiles also carry parasites and diseases which may contaminate your other pets.

In Montana, there are certain legal limitations with owning, selling, purchasing, or breeding snakes due to local protection laws.

Have a look at our snake laws guide for more.

References:

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