March 22, 2011

Q: Where are rattlesnakes found in Washington State?

Rattlesnakes are among the most feared, and perhaps misunderstood, reptiles out there. The last thing many people want to hear is the ominous shake of a rattler. So many may wonder:

Q: Where are rattlesnakes found in Washington State?

A: The only rattlesnake species found in Washington State is the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis).  Western rattlesnakes live in warm, dry habitats of desert shrub, grasslands and open pine forests.  Because of these habitat needs, rattlesnakes do not live in Western Washington and only inhabit the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and eastern parts of the Columbia River Gorge.

Western rattlesnake. Photo by Brad Moon
Rocky habitats are the most common areas to find Western rattlesnakes.  Although these snakes are venomous, they rarely use their well-known rattles and are generally calm creatures.  In fact, they’d much rather remain still and go unnoticed by predators and people by staying quiet and out of the way. 

During the late fall and winter, Western rattlesnakes often hibernate in rock crevices on south-facing slopes, and may be joined in their dens by other snake species as well.  The rattlesnakes emerge from the dens when the weather is warm enough to take them out of a state of torpor, usually between February and April. 

To learn more about other Washington State reptiles, click here.

The Burke Museum partners with the Seattle PI's Big Blog to answer commonly asked questions about the natural and cultural history of our region. This post originally appeared on the Big Blog on March 21.

Posted by: Andrea Barber