CENTRAL OREGON WILDLIFE
Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)
The Rubber boa lives in a variety of habitats, from desert scrub, foothill woodlands, and grasslands through deciduous and coniferous forests. They are active at dawn, dusk, night, and on cloudy days. Rubber boas also spend a large amount of time under shelter like rocks, logs, and in burrows to avoid the hot sun. This is a slow moving snake that relies on catching small mammals in their nests. They eat young, small mammals, such as mice and voles. These snakes hibernate during the winter months in underground dens.
When frightened, the snake coils into a ball with its head tucked underneath and tail sticking out. A Rubber boa’s bite is rare and harmless, but they will release a potent musk.
North American Racer (Coluber constrictor)
The Racer is found in a variety of open habitats, including sagebrush flats, juniper woodlands, chaparral, and meadows. They feed on smaller snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, and little birds. During winter months, North American racers hibernate in mammal burrows, caves, and rock crevices. They hibernate from November to March. In Idaho, adults emerge from dens in late April to early May.
Despite its common name, the racer’s actual speed is about four miles per hour, or about the rate of a human’s brisk walk.
If cornered, a typical racer will coil, vibrating its tail and strike. The racer is non-venomous, but the bite may cause bleeding.
Photo: Cammy Purple Fox Farm
Night Snake (Hypsiglena torquata)
In the Pacific Northwest, the night snake frequents arid desert scrub habitats near rocky outcrops or rim rock. It takes refuge in talus slopes or rocky crevices during the day. This nocturnal snake is often seen crossing roads at night.
The night snake preys upon lizards, small snakes, frogs, and small mice, which it subdues with its mild venom. The venom usually does not have an adverse effect on humans.
Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus)
The striped whipsnake is found in high altitude woodlands, as well as in desert scrub, grassland, and juniper-studded rangelands. They can often be found near ponds and river edges where water is readily available and amphibians, rodents, and other snakes. They even eat rattlesnakes! Striped whipsnakes seem to prefer temperatures from seventy five to ninety nine degrees Fahrenheit. They travel across the ground with their heads held high to get a better view of their surroundings.
This species can vanish into burrows and rocks when surprised and is also known to escape predators by climbing trees.
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer)
The gopher snake lives in a wide variety of habitats, from deserts and grasslands to woodlands and open Ponderosa Pine forests. They prefer to spend most of their time in open parts of those habitats, such as grassland and forest edges. Gopher snakes are active mainly at dawn and dusk, but occasionally during the night. They eat small mammals like mice, voles, moles, rats, ground squirrels, and small rabbits. They retreat to hibernation areas in rocky outcrops or lose rocky slopes in late fall and emerge in the spring.
These snakes are solitary, except during the mating season. They live alone in dens or other areas that provide adequate shelter.
A threatened gopher snake will flatten its head, hiss loudly, and shake its tail rapidly, doing a rattlesnake imitation.
Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridus)
Although they live in a wide variety of habitat types, from deserts and chaparral to open forests across Oregon, Western rattlesnakes usually habitate near rocks, cliffs, or downed logs. They overwinter in dens typically located on south-facing rocky hillsides exposed to sunshine. Western rattlesnakes are usually active at dawn and dusk but during hot summer may become nocturnal. They may come out sometimes during the day to bask in the sun, but usually spend most of the day hidden in their shelters. Their diet includes small rodents, small rabbits, and amphibians. During cold months they hibernate in mammal burrows, crevices, or caves.
Western rattlesnakes live on the ground but sometimes may climb into shrubs or trees. They are generally not aggressive and lead a solitary life.
Western Terrestrial (wandering) Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans)
This species is found in a variety of habitats. Four subspecies are found in Oregon, each of which has somewhat different habitat preferences. Studies have found wandering garter snakes to be primarily a riparian habitat specialist.
They are primarily active during the daylight hours. This snake hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter. It forages on the ground and in the water for a wide variety of prey items including fish, amphibians, small mammals, birds, insects, snails, worms, snakes, and leeches.
They are found in an array of striped and non-striped forms, with or without black spots.