The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Service, in conjunction with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, has published a paper called “Venomous Reptiles of Nevada.” While many of us in the Las Vegas region live in the city, aggressive growth is causing more construction that is pushing our homes further into the desert. This means that many of the creatures that traditionally live in the desert are now a whole lot closer to your living room.
Just remember – the reptiles were here first.
Since it’s spring, a time when reptiles and other desert creatures are more active, let’s take a look at the reptiles that live in our backyards.
Venomous Snakes in Las Vegas
The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Service says there are 52 different types of snakes and lizards living in our landscape. The most dangerous are the dozen venomous snakes that make Las Vegas their home. Of the 12, five are extremely dangerous to pets and humans.
The good news we can share is that these creatures have survived by hiding. But that is also the bad news, because yard debris is a great hiding place for reptiles of any type.
These snakes are the most active in spring and summer, because their bodies soak up the warmth of the desert heat, giving them more energy to travel and hunt. In the winter you won’t see them at all because they hibernate, growing sluggish from the colder temperatures.
Generally, if you see a snake in Nevada, move in the other direction. However the five most dangerous snakes in our region include these rattlesnakes:
- The sidewinder, whose locomotion has a distinctive side-to-side movement, is found primarily in southern Nevada.
- The Mohave, which has a distinctive green and yellow coloring, has extremely potent venom.
- The speckled western diamondback is the largest of the species and has a variable body pattern that makes them particularly effective at camouflaging themselves.
- The Great Basin rattlesnake can be found all over Nevada, Oregon, Utah, California, Idaho, and Arizona. They actually look like the Great Basin gopher snake, which is harmless.
These snakes are all part of the pit viper family and can grow up to four feet long. One thing to note is that television is getting it wrong. While everyone has heard the rattling warning from the set of maracas on a rattler’s tail, the truth is that these reptiles don’t always warn you before they strike.
Features of Rattlesnakes
The pit viper family of snakes are characterized by flat wide heads that hold long vampire-like fangs. These fangs puncture the skin and then the snake’s venom glands use the attached muscles to pump the poison out and into the victim. When the prey is dead, the rattler can unhinge it’s lower jaw and swallow it whole.
The problem with these snakes is that they are masters of camouflage and can surprise unsuspecting homeowners when they’re working in the yard.
One of the features of this family of snakes is that their bite is venomous. If any wild creature bites you, seek medical attention immediately.