Alaska is known for its lack of snakes; no snakes of any kind have been identified as native to the state because it’s too cold for these cold-blooded creatures. This does not imply there have never been any snake encounters. Some people have encountered snakes in Alaska in the past!
In 2005, a solitary Common Garter Snake was discovered in the state’s southeast in Haines, near the British Columbia border. In 2014, Alaska homeowner George Pierce came upon the remains of a garter snake while out in his back yard. However, in these two scenarios, it is thought that the snakes escaped a pet store or captivity.
Although people have spotted snakes in Alaska, there is no record of a snake making a permanent home in Alaska. Most snakes are cold-blooded and thus prefer to live in warm places to keep them warm.
Why Are There No Wild Snakes in Alaska?
Ectothermic (cold-blooded) creatures, such as snakes, don’t create their body heat; therefore, they rely on the outside environment to maintain their temperature. They would not live in the cold of Alaska throughout the winter due to the severe temperatures.
In the winter, the ground freezes, and there is a lot of snow. Snakes prefer to dwell in hotter climates. The majority of snakes can only withstand temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter, even in the most desirable areas of Alaska, the temperature dips far below 65 degrees. Southern Canada has the closest snake populations to Alaska.
However, even as the world’s temperature changes, chances of Alaska being warm enough to support snake populations is still many millennia away.
Alaska’s climate has gone through some significant temperature changes in the previous 200 million years that snakes have been around, indicating that the region likely had favorable temperatures to snakes millions of years ago.
Which Snakes Have People Seen in Alaska?
The Garter snake is a Colubrid snake genus found across North America, from Alaska to Central America. It is Alaska’s only species with the broadest distribution in North America. Garter snake wide distribution is due to its diverse food, adaptation to various biomes and landforms, and closeness to water. Populations in the north hibernate in more significant groupings than those in the south.
Garter snakes were spotted congregating near hot springs in Alaska in the 1970s. Since then, there have been no reports of that incident in that region for more than 50 years. You can occasionally spot garter snakes on the Alaskan Panhandle.
However, there have been no reports of these snakes settling in Alaska. Even if people observe them, they are not permitted to hunt or gather them for themselves.
Although individuals have reported seeing garter snakes in Alaska, they do not have significant numbers, and it is unknown how often people encounter them. Even though snakes are not usually found in Alaska’s wild, some people keep them as pets. The majority of snakes observed in Alaska are believed to be escaped pet snakes.
Any snake that finds its way to Alaska unless it’s placed under perfect cage conditions will most likely die. For instance according to Anchorage Daily News, a ball python, one of the most popular pet snakes, was once captured in someone’s driveway. The snake was chilly, sluggish and barely moving, even on a hot summer day. Two additional cases of a corn snake (also a popular pet) were discovered in a crawlspace.
Can People Keep Pet Snakes in Alaska?
Don’t despair if you’re one of those folks who can’t imagine life without reptiles! Snakes are permitted to be owned as pets in Alaska as long as you keep them safe and warm indoors. However, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, you are only permitted to keep non-venomous snakes.
If you doubt the validity of the snake’s venomous state or want additional information, reach out to the department of fish and Game wildlife permits section.
While all non-venomous snakes are permitted in Alaska, most keep Corn snakes, Ball Pythons, or Rubber Boas. More details about these popular pet snakes are available below:
1. Corn Snake
Corn snakes are a type of rat snakes that we also refer to as “red rat snakes”. Because they remain a decent size, docile, non-venomous, and easy to care for, these small constrictors make excellent first-time snakes. This snake has a tan or orange body with red-brown streaks running the length of its back. Their undersides are cream or white, with black dots arranged in a checkerboard pattern. They also have tiny skulls that are around the same width as their bodies.
2. Northern Rubber Boa
These snakes move slowly and like to rest in our warm hands and arms. They are pleasant to handle and may even enjoy it. Their rubbery skin gives them their moniker, which you will notice if you ever handle one. It has a rubbery feel to it, but it is much softer. The color tone of these snakes ranges from tan to grey to brown. Their skin is lustrous, and their head is proportionate to the rest of their body.
3. Ball Python
The Ball Python is the most common snake kept as a pet across the world. They are timid creatures that can get used to their captors, making them appropriate for confinement. When they are threatened, they coil up into a ball, which gives them their name. They are dark brown with light brown spots scattered throughout their bodies or cream or tan with yellow splotches in the same manner. Their scales will almost always be smooth.
In conclusion, an ordinary garter snake is the only snake species that can be spotted in Alaska. However, no snakes of any kind have been identified as being native to the state.
Although there are no wild snakes endemic to Alaska, people keep non-venomous snakes as pets since they are lawful. Alaska naturally does not have snakes because it is icy. Snakes have a cold-blooded nature and prefer to dwell in hotter climates.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.