Snakes of San Jose, CA

San Jose snake

Welcome to! I am David, a snake enthusiast living in San Jose, CA. Many people don't know that San Jose is in fact full of snakes! You just need to know where to find them - they can often be shy and elusive. Some California snake species are more common outside of the city limits, in different parts of Santa Clara County CA, but many types of snakes are indeed common in the more urban parts of San Jose. This guide is meant to help educate you about the beautiful snakes of San Jose, and to help you identify the most common snakes of San Jose, as well as the venomous snakes of San Jose that you should learn to recognize and avoid. If you want more detail, click here for my complete list of ALL snake species in San Jose. Remember the following:

  • Most snakes of San Jose are harmless and don't want to encounter you
  • Venomous snakes exist but are uncommon in San Jose, California
  • Snakes eat rats and mice and are a valuable part of the California ecosystem
  • Never kill a snake - if you leave a snake alone, it will leave you alone.

Common Snake Species in San Jose

San Jose snake California Nightsnake: One of several subspecies across the state, these small brown or black snakes are usually only around a foot long. As the name suggests, they are primarily nocturnal and eat whatever they can swallow, including lizards, frogs, salamanders, and their eggs. They tend to live in more arid environments such as deserts and plains but can live more or less anywhere, and they and their related subspecies live across the state and down into Baja as well. Like most snakes of their kind, they are harmless to people and tend to keep to themselves. They have been observed crossing roads but generally hide under rocks and leaves, keeping to themselves as they hunt and move about. This makes them rather elusive, night road crossings aside, of course.

San Jose snake California Kingsnake: An extremely common snake across California, they are usually around two and a half to three and a half feet long. Their appearance is as widely varied as their habitat, with browns, yellows, blotches, stripes, and combinations thereof possible. In cooler weather, they are active during the day and at night when it’s cooler, as well as dusk and dawn. A constrictor, they eat birds, reptiles, mammals, eggs, and hatchlings. Basically, if they can swallow it, they will eat it, though that can be said to some extent of pretty much any snake. Still, some snakes tend to be pickier than others, but the kingsnake is not a picky eater by any means.

San Jose snake California Striped Racer: Generally, thirty to forty-eight inches in length, these fast, thin snakes are one of several subspecies across California. Their coloration varies but it’s usually brown, grey, or black with a yellow or cream stripe along the body. The underside is similarly colored. Active during the day, they feed on small rodents, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, especially spiny lizards. Though not venomous, they will bite if threatened or handled like most coachwhips and racers. Otherwise, they are not generally aggressive, just very defensive and prone to protecting themselves. Like most animals, if left alone they will mind their own business

San Jose snake California Red Sided Garter Snake: Several garter snakes reside across the state, and this one can be found in the San Jose area. Usually under three feet in length, these red and blackish snakes have the distinctive striped pattern of garters, obviously. A good swimmer and active in daylight, they eat amphibians, eggs, fish, birds, small mammals, reptiles, slugs, leeches, and worms. They can also eat poisonous Pacific Newts. Completely harmless to people, garter snakes are the type most likely for people to encounter, not just in California but across the United States. Unfortunately, this means they tend to be the ones most likely to be killed out of fear, but to reiterate they pose no threat to people.

Venomous Snake Species in San Jose

San Jose snake North Pacific Rattlesnake: Over half a dozen species and subspecies of rattlesnake inhabit California, and this one can be found in the San Jose area. A highly venomous heat seeker, they tend to be over a foot to three feet in length. Nocturnal for the most part, they feed largely on small mammals, but will also eat birds, frogs, insects, and other reptiles. They tend to live on rockier areas and will bite if agitated, warning tail or not. Though about the only species of rattlesnake of note in the immediate San Jose area, several other subspecies can be found in surrounding habitats and deserts. As long as they are left alone they will keep to themselves, as they are primarily an ambush predator and nocturnal by nature, helping to reduce confrontations with humans.

If you're unsure, you can email me a photo of the snake at and I will email you back with the snake's species. If you found a snake skin, read my Found a Skin? page, and you can email me a photo of the skin, and I'll identify the snake for you. If you need professional San Jose snake removal help, click my Get Help page, or see the below website sponsor I found, who provides that service.

How do snakes produce venom?
With hollowed-out or grooved “teeth”, venomous snakes really are one of nature's dangerous weapons, essentially working as needles to inject a toxic combination of chemicals into an unlucky victim. This chemical combination is known as venom, giving the snakes their name — venomous snakes. The venom itself comes from a gland that can be found underneath the eye in many species, ready to flow through into the needle-like teeth, and then working its magic on the flesh and body of whatever the snake plans to consume.

Luckily, America isn’t home to the greatest number of venomous snakes. We're not in quite as much danger as Australia, which is home to not only the most venomous snakes in the world, and plenty of them, but also some of the most aggressive snakes too. Despite having the most venomous snakes, only a handful of people die as a result of venomous snake bits each year, technology lending a hand to lead to advancements in anti-venom treatments and medications.

In the United State, it is estimated that around five to seven thousand snake bites happen each year, from what are believed to be venomous species. Only a few of those, again, are deadly — 10 to 15.

What makes life quite difficult is that snake venom is actually just a modified version of saliva. There are only a few tiny protein differences. Our saliva doesn't kill us, of course, but the venom that snakes contain CAN kill you. With some that affect the way the central nervous system works in the body, and others wreaking havoc with tissue or blood systems, snakes aren't known to have just one kind of venom “type”. A combination of chemicals are found, making snake bite reactions diverse and quite difficult to treat.

Just like skunk spray, a snake won't have an unlimited supply of venom. There will be a “store" in the gland, and once that “store” has been used up, the snake will need to wait for the gland to make more of it. This can take days or weeks, in some cases, but there are a number of things that will change this time. A snake might not use all of its venom store to disable a prey animal, therefore requiring less time to "charge the batteries”.

Remember, the term is not poisonous snakes of San Jose, it's venomous snakes of San Jose. Poison is generally something you eat, and venom is injected into you. That said, dangerous snakes are very rare in San Jose. The few venomous snakes of Santa Clara County are rarely seen. But they are commonly misidentified, so learn about all the snake species of San Jose in order to correctly identify them. These snakes are usually also found in the surrounding towns of San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Milpitas, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Stanford, Campbell, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, San Martin, Cambrian Park, Alum Rock, East Foothills, Burbank, Fruitdale, Loyola, West Santa Clara, Llagas-Uvas, Lexington Hills, and the surrounding areas.

Read our article about:
How do snakes eat? domain and hosting costs made possible by the generous support of this sponsor: