What snakes live in the Albuquerque area?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the increase in temperature across New Mexico, you’re likely to see more reptiles out and about. Much like the lizards that populate our state, it’s time for the 56 species of snakes in the Land of Enchantment to soak up the sunshine.

“As a whole, New Mexico is a very diverse state when it comes to reptile species,” said Zookeeper IV at the ABQ BioPark Joshua Butler. “But also mammals, amphibians, birds; we have a plethora of species that naturalists can get out and enjoy.”

Butler said 95% of the snakes you’ll see in the Albuquerque metro area will be either gopher or bull snakes along with a good amount of wandering garter snakes. Also, western Diamondbacks can be found in the surrounding Albuquerque areas like the foothills and the volcanoes. “They’re probably the third most common species…people in the Taylor Ranch area, Volcano Vista area, I’ve seen western Diamondbacks there. You do need to be cautious,” Butler said.

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As far as diet, Butler said the gopher and bull snakes are mostly opportunists. “Rodents are a great source of protein and fats for snakes but they won’t ignore something like chickens or chicks, birds, lizards,” said Butler. “They might even take on another snake if possible, although it’s not their preferred item.”

He said garter snakes tend to go for smaller prey items, mainly lizards, frogs, tadpoles, and fish – tadpoles and fish making up the majority of their diet during certain parts of the season. However, they also won’t turn down a small mammal if given the chance.

The western diamondback’s diet is going to change with their age. As a young snake, they will most likely eat small lizards but as they grow older, a full-sized western diamondback will have moved on to rodents and could even take down a cottontail rabbit.

Butler said you have a higher possibility of seeing snakes in Albuquerque along the Bosque and any parks or open-space areas that have a natural habitat. “Getting away from structures is going to enhance your chances. I highly recommend hiking out on the volcano trails, you’re going to see a lot of lizards and snakes,” Butler said. “This is typically the time when most snakes are coming out of the burrows; the males will start venturing out, females are going to start to look for food.”

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Along with spotting a western diamondback rattlesnake in the foothills, you might also get to see a blacktail rattlesnake. Butler said they’re not as common as the diamondback as they are considered more of a high-altitude snake.

Butler said there are about 100 snake bites reported every year and that most bites are from people trying to move or harm a venomous snake, or it’s out of panic and they do something ill-advised. “If you hear that classic rattle sound, really just freeze and definitely try and locate the snake,” Butler said. He said often people immediately run when they hear a rattle.

If you’re in an environment where sounds can echo and bounce around it’s difficult to judge where a rattlesnake is. “Don’t trust your hearing. Definitely stop, calmly control your body motions, and identify where that snake is. If it’s rattling, it’s giving you the opportunity to let you know where it is,” said Butler.

He said in Tucson, where there are many rattlesnakes, the number of snakes have led to many of them getting killed when they start to rattle. Butler said this has led to a lot of rattlesnakes stopping rattling as a warning in the act of self-preservation.

So, it’s in everybody’s best interest to leave them alone. “Not only do you preserve that snake’s place in the ecosystem but also you perpetuate the evolutionary advantage of having a rattle warning predators,” said Butler.

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