South Dakota Reptiles

South Dakota is home to many species of reptiles. We have 8 species of lizards, 7 species of turtles, and 17 species of snakes.

How many types of venomous snakes live in South Dakota?

South Dakota has just one venomous snake species, the Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus v. viridis). Many people believe some of our other snakes are venomous but luckily for most of us, such stories are myths.

Prairie RattlesnakePrairie Rattlesnake

Coral snakes in South Dakota?

Pale Milk Snake

That little snake you just found under a log or in the garage is not a coral snake. Coral snakes are not found within about 700 miles of South Dakota. What you have is a shy and harmless Pale Milk Snake (Lampropeltis t. multistriata). They are fairly common but rarely seen due to their secretive nature.

The legend of the Puff Adder...

The most common venomous snake story we hear is about the "South Dakota Puff Adder". Some people even claim this snake is so deadly its mere breath can kill you.

The snake referred to in this instance is the Western Hognose Snake. This innocuous little snake is quite harmless to most everything except its favorite food, toads. They are renowned, however, for their remarkable defense display.

If threatened a Hognose Snake will hiss and puff up its head (hence the Puff Adder moniker). If that fails it will roll over on its back, loll out its tongue, and pretend to be dead. Unfortunately the poor snake doesn't quite have the whole dead act down quite right. If you roll one onto its belly, it will promptly roll right back over on its back.

Hognose Snake

Western Hognose Snake

Puff Adder

Puff Adder

Baby rattler... or not?

We get many calls, especially in the spring and early summer, about baby rattlesnakes. Many times the snakes people are seeing are not rattlesnakes at all. Two local species have young that are colored much like rattlesnakes for this very reason - to fool predators.

Baby Bullsnakes and baby Eastern Yellowbellied Racers (also known locally as Blue Racers) bear an uncanny resemblance to young rattlesnakes. They will coil up, hiss, strike, and even shake their little rattle-less tails. The first thing we ask callers to do is to look at that tail of the suspected snake:

Baby Rattlesnakes

Baby rattlesnakes have a rattle, a single button that makes the tail look blunted.

Western Hognose Snake

Baby Bullsnakes

Young bullsnakes and racers have very pointed tails, like toothpicks.

Puff Adder

I just saw a huge snake!

Hearing wild stories about huge rattlesnakes or other local snakes in South Dakota, the facts are simple:

The world record for a Prairie Rattlesnake is right around 6 feet long. But, in all the years we have been in existence, we have never seen a true 6-foot Prairie Rattler. In South Dakota, the average length for a rattlesnake is 2 to 3 feet with a really big one topping out at around 4 feet in length.

The other "big" snake we have in South Dakota is the Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi). Many times we have heard tales of a Bullsnake so long that as it crawled across the road its head was in the ditch on one side of the road and its tail in the ditch on the other side of the road! Alas, this could only happen if the snake had been killed and chopped in half.

The record size for a Bullsnake is reputed to be 102 inches. Since our beginning in 1937, we have never had one close to that size brought in. The average size for a South Dakota Bullsnake is around 3 feet; a very large one might be around 5 feet long.