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What kind of snake is this?

Hello,

To whom shall I direct my inquiry on the identification of the snake in my attached photo?
The photo was taken by my cousin John on the shore of Lake Isabella in Kern Co. CA.
Thank you for any help you can offer.

Sincerely,
Gail 

Gail - October 6, 2020

Curator Response

Hi Gail,

This looks like an adult Sierra Gartersnake (Thamnophis couchii). This species is found along rivers and streams from the floor of the San Joaquin Valley to about 8,000 ft elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It occurs from the Pit and Sacramento Rivers south through the Sierra Nevada to the western end of the Tehachapi Mountains. The dorsal stripe on this species can be indistinct or absent as the photo of this snake shows. It’s a light colored stripe that runs down the center of the back and for some species can be one of the characters useful in determining the species ID. This snake frequents a wide variety of freshwater habitats including streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

For evidence of that association with freshwater, check out the amazing photos of this snake going after a trout on the CA Herps website (a useful resource). Scroll down through the photos to see them: http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/t.couchii.html

Stay curious,

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Paul W. Collins, M.A.