I’m a fan of snakes. Most of you already know this because I don’t exactly keep it secret. Snakes are just…cool. They don’t behave like other animals, come in a wide range of sizes and colors (and shapes, even if all snakes are tubular). And like a lot of snake people, I have my favorites. Some favorites are snakes I actually keep. Some favorites are snakes I will probably never keep. But they all have one thing in common: I think they are pretty darn awesome.
With that in mind, here are my five favorite snake species!
1. Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)
Bullsnakes are probably the coolest North American colubrid. They are a subspecies of the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer) and are, unfortunately, often mistaken for rattlesnakes even though they look quite different.
Part of that mistaken identity is their distinct personalities: loud, vocal, and hungry. One of the reasons I love these snakes is their attitude. When a bullsnake isn’t happy with you, you’ll know it. See for yourself:
That noise you hear is the air being pushed over a little flap in their throats. Some people believe this is a form of mimicry because it sounds similar to a rattlesnake. Whatever the reason for this adaptation, it is certainly an intimidating display for a snake that is essentially harmless. Sadly, their general look and their attitude is one reason they are regularly killed by people who don’t know any better.
2. Hairy Bush Viper (Atheris hispida)
The hairy bush viper is one of two species of snake that look suspiciously like legless dragons. The other is the dragonsnake (Xenodermus javanicus), which, in my opinion, looks less like a dragon than the hairy bush viper.
Like many snakes in less-researched parts of the world, we don’t know a whole lot about the hairy bush viper, which hails from Central Africa. They are venomous, as the name “viper” suggests. As far as we know, their bites can be fatal without first aid and antivenin treatments, featuring a combo of neurotoxins, cytotoxins, and fasciculins that can lead to severe hemorrhaging of internal organs and other less-than-exciting consequences. In other words, I will never keep these snakes as pets.1
But they are just so cool looking, right?2
3. Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria)
Of all of the boa species, the rainbow boas are by far my favorites. And for good reason. The best representative of the species is the Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria cenchria). The Peruvian variation (Epicrates cenchria gaigeae) is also quite stunning, though it may just be a locality of the Brazilian and not a subspecies of its own. Other variations lack some of the bright oranges and reds, such as the Colombian rainbow boa (Epicrates maurus), which is the second most-kept rainbow boa in the pet trade.
If you want to see just how beautiful these snakes are, check out these pictures of Furiosa (a Peruvian) and Santiago (a Colombian):
My dream is to have a breeding pair or trio of every rainbow boa subspecies currently known. Unfortunately, only two of the subspecies are readily available in the pet trade, meaning finding the others will be very difficult. Sadface.
4. Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Tiny and beautiful. Ring-necked snakes are probably my favorite snake to encounter in the wild. They’re mild-mannered, dainty, and darn cute. And they don’t get nearly the love that they deserve. One thing that is particularly neat about these snakes is their coloration. All of them have brightly colored bellies ranging from yellows to dark red (largely locality based).
While they are less common than the garter snake, a lot of North Americans have encountered them in their gardens or on trails. I stumbled upon one for the first time in Santa Cruz, California while on a tour of UCSC!
Here’s a picture of one of the many I encountered in Florida:
This is Scully, my Okeetee corn snake.3
Ain’t she cute?
Pretty much everyone has heard of the corn snake. They’re one of the three most commonly kept snake species, and for good reason: they’re awesome. Of all the common species in the pet trade, this is my favorite snake because of their inquisitive and calm demeanor. They’re just fun to be around because they’re always interested in what’s going on. If there’s a snake species most closely linked to a dog, it’s the corn snake.
Also: wild-variety corn snakes are seriously some of the most beautiful creatures you will ever see. They come in clay gray with maroon saddles, variations of orange and red, contrasts between white, orange, and red, and on and on. They’re just beautiful!
And there you have it. My five favorite snakes. What about you? Do you have any favorites species? You don’t have to love them as much as I do; appreciating from afar counts! Let me know in the comments!
- They tend to die in captivity anyway. ↩
- Be careful with pictures of these guys. There are a lot of photoshopped images out there. ↩
- Okeetee refers to the morph, which derives from a locality or genetic “area” in South Carolina. For the most part, Okeetee corns are a pattern variant and generally not “of the area” anymore. ↩