What Poisonous Snakes Are in Alaska? A Guide to Staying Safe in the Wilderness

Alaska is a state known for its natural allure and stunning wildlife. From the rugged terrain to the icy waters, there is something about the Last Frontier that draws people in. However, with so much wilderness, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers. One of those dangers, of course, is venomous snakes. As surprising as it may seem, Alaska does have a few species of venomous snakes, lurking in the underbrush.

While most people associate snakes with warm, tropical environments, Alaska’s ranges of hills and wetlands also provide a habitat for certain types of venomous snakes. The primary species of venomous snake found in Alaska is the Western rattlesnake. These snakes can be identified by their rattle-like tails and characteristic diamond-shaped heads. But while rattlesnakes get most of the attention, there are a few other venomous snakes in Alaska to watch out for – including the Copperhead and Cottonmouth, both of which can pose a serious threat to unwary hikers or campers venturing into the great outdoors.

So, if you’re planning on hiking or spending time in areas where snakes might be present, it’s important to keep your wits about you. Always stay on designated trails, and wear appropriate clothing that covers your skin and shoes with proper support. Above all, stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any creatures that might be lurking in the brush. While it may be alarming to know that venomous snakes do exist in our northernmost state, with a bit of knowledge and preparation, you can keep yourself safe while enjoying all of Alaska’s natural beauty.

Geographical location of Alaska

Alaska is the northernmost state in the United States, located in the far northwest of North America. It is separated from the rest of the country by Canada, and bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

The state is massive, covering an area of 1,717,854 square kilometers (663,267 square miles), including more than 34,000 miles of coastline. Alaska also boasts the tallest peak in North America, Mount Denali, which rises 20,310 feet above sea level in the Alaska Range.

Poisonous snakes in Alaska

  • Contrary to popular belief, there are no poisonous snakes native to Alaska. The state’s cold climate and harsh conditions make it an inhospitable environment for such creatures to survive.
  • However, there are some non-venomous snakes found in Alaska, such as the common garter snake and the boreal chorus frog, which are both found in the Interior region of the state.
  • Additionally, there have been occasional reports of some non-native species, such as the northern pacific rattlesnake and western terrestrial garter snake, being brought into the state as stowaways in boats or other vehicles. These snakes may pose a risk to humans and wildlife if they become established in the ecosystem.

Ecological significance of the lack of poisonous snakes in Alaska

The absence of poisonous snakes in Alaska may seem like a negative thing, as venomous snakes are often considered a threat to humans and other animals. However, this actually has many ecological benefits for the state.

Without the presence of venomous snakes to prey upon other animals, populations of small rodents, birds, and insects are able to thrive. These creatures play important roles in the ecosystem, serving as food sources for larger predators and pollinators for plants. In turn, this allows for a healthy and balanced ecosystem to exist.


Alaska’s unique geographical location and harsh climate make it an unlikely home to any poisonous snakes. While non-venomous snakes do exist in the state, their ecological impact is positive due to their role in the local food chain and ecosystem.

Geographical Location Size Climate
Far northwest of North America 1,717,854 square kilometers (663,267 square miles) Cold with harsh conditions

Overall, Alaska is a unique and fascinating state, which locals and tourists alike can enjoy with little worry about the threat of poisonous snakes.

Habitat Range for Snakes

Alaska may not be known for its snakes, but there are a handful of species that can be found in the state. These snakes are adapted to the harsh, cold environment of Alaska and have unique features that help them survive in their habitat.

  • The common garter snake is the most widespread snake species in Alaska and can be found throughout most of the state. They prefer wetlands and riparian areas, but can also be found in meadows, forests, and tundra.
  • The wandering garter snake, also known as the Pacific garter snake, is another common snake species in Alaska. They are found in the southeastern part of the state and are associated with wetlands.
  • The North American racer, also known as the eastern racer, can be found in the interior and western parts of Alaska. They prefer drier habitats like grasslands and shrublands.

While these three species are the most commonly found snakes in Alaska, there are a few other snake species that have been spotted in the state, including the rubber boa and the western terrestrial garter snake. However, these two species are not as widespread as the common garter snake or the North American racer.

It’s important to note that even though there are snakes in Alaska, encounters with them are rare. Snakes are typically active during the warmer months and hibernate during the winter, making them difficult to spot. Additionally, some snake species in Alaska have developed unique adaptations to survive in the cold temperatures, such as the ability to freeze and thaw out multiple times throughout the winter.

Snake Species Habitat Range
Common garter snake Most of Alaska
Wandering garter snake Southeastern Alaska
North American racer Interior and western Alaska

Overall, while Alaska may not have a large diversity of snake species, the ones that do reside in the state have unique adaptations and can be found in a variety of habitats.

Importance of identifying venomous snakes

It is important to be able to identify venomous snakes for your own safety and for the safety of those around you. Being able to recognize these dangerous creatures can help you avoid potential encounters and minimize the risk of getting bitten.

  • Prevention: Identifying venomous snakes can help prevent unnecessary and dangerous situations. You can avoid areas where venomous snakes are known to reside or take necessary precautions when traveling in areas where venomous snakes are common.
  • Treatment: If you do encounter a venomous snake and get bitten, being able to identify the snake can help medical professionals treat you more effectively. Knowing what kind of venom was injected into your system can help them administer the proper antivenom.
  • Education: Knowing which snakes are venomous can help educate others and raise awareness about the importance of snake safety. This can help prevent unnecessary harm to both humans and snakes.

Common venomous snakes in Alaska

Although Alaska is not known for having many venomous snakes, it is still important to recognize the ones that do inhabit the state. Here are a few:

  • The Western Rattlesnake: This is the only species of venomous snake native to Alaska. They can be found in the southeast region of the state and are most active during the summer months. Western Rattlesnakes are easily identifiable by their rattling tail and triangular-shaped head.
  • The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake: Although not native to Alaska, this species can be found in the southern portion of the state. They are similar in appearance to the Western Rattlesnake with a rattling tail and triangular-shaped head.

Identifying venomous snakes

Here are a few key characteristics to keep in mind when trying to identify venomous snakes:

  • Triangular-shaped head: Venomous snakes typically have a wider, triangular-shaped head compared to non-venomous snakes.
  • Pit organs: Many venomous snakes have heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils, which aid in hunting and can help identify them as venomous.
  • Rattling tail: The rattling sound produced by some venomous snakes is a warning sign to stay back.
Bite symptoms Non-venomous snake bite Venomous snake bite
Pain and swelling
Blurred vision X
Nausea and vomiting X
Muscle weakness X

Table: Symptoms of non-venomous and venomous snake bites

Physical characteristics of venomous snakes in Alaska

Of the 34 snake species found in Alaska, only one is venomous- the Alaska timber rattlesnake. Knowing how to identify venomous snakes is crucial as it can save your life. Here are some physical characteristics to help you spot a venomous snake in Alaska:

  • Triangular-shaped head with prominent pits between the eyes and nostrils. These pits are heat-sensing organs that help the snake locate prey.
  • Vertical pupils that resemble cat eyes
  • Rattle at the end of the tail
  • Length ranging from 3 to 5 feet

These characteristics are unique to venomous snakes and can help you differentiate them from non-venomous snakes that are similar in appearance. It’s important to note that not all venomous snakes rattle their tails, so it’s best to give all snakes a wide berth and not provoke them.

Here’s a table of the physical characteristics that can help you identify venomous snakes in Alaska:

Characteristic Non-venomous Snakes Venomous Snakes
Head Shape Round Triangular
Pupils Round Vertical
Tail No rattle Rattle
Size Less than 3 feet 3 to 5 feet

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So if you’re unsure whether a snake is venomous or not, avoid it altogether and give it plenty of space.

Types of Snake Venom in Alaska

Alaska is home to several species of snakes, but only one of them is venomous: the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. This venomous snake has been known to inhabit southeastern Alaska and the Prince William Sound region. The venom from this snake can cause severe pain and swelling, as well as potential tissue damage and even death if left untreated.

Common Types of Snake Venom in Alaska

  • Neurotoxic venom: This type of venom attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis and eventually death. The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake has been known to possess neurotoxic venom.
  • Hemotoxic venom: This venom affects the bloodstream, causing the victim to bleed internally or externally. Hemotoxic venom is present in many species of venomous snakes, but not in the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.
  • Cytotoxic venom: This type of venom attacks tissues and cells, causing necrosis and extreme pain. The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake has also been known to possess cytotoxic venom.

Treatment for Snake Venom in Alaska

If you are ever bitten by a venomous snake in Alaska, seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to suck out the venom or use a tourniquet. These methods can actually worsen the situation. The only effective treatment for snake venom is antivenom, which is administered by a medical professional.

It is important to stay calm and keep the bitten area immobilized, as movement can spread the venom throughout the body more quickly.

Comparison of Snake Venom in Alaska and Other Regions

The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake’s venom is similar to that of other venomous snakes found in North America, such as the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Timber Rattlesnake. However, the quantity of venom produced by the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake is significantly less than that of its southern counterparts.

Snake Species Location Quantity of Venom Produced
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake Alaska Small amount
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Southwestern United States Large amount
Timber Rattlesnake Eastern United States Medium amount

Overall, while the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake may not be as venomous as some of its southern counterparts, it is still important for Alaskans to be aware of its presence and take necessary precautions to avoid being bitten.

Prevention methods for snake bites

While there are no poisonous snakes in Alaska, it is still important to practice safety measures to prevent snake bites when hiking or exploring. Here are some essential prevention methods to keep in mind:

  • Wear protective clothing like thick boots, long pants, and high socks to reduce the chances of being bitten.
  • Stay on designated hiking trails and avoid areas where snakes may be hiding such as tall grass or rocky outcroppings.
  • Use a walking stick to probe ahead of you while walking, allowing any hidden snakes to be detected before you come into close contact with them.

In addition to these basic precautions, it is also essential to stay alert and aware of your surroundings when hiking in areas where snakes may be present. If you do encounter a snake, the most important thing to do is to remain calm and move away slowly.

Here is a table outlining some additional prevention methods to consider:

Prevention Method Description
Carry a snakebite kit A snakebite kit can help to treat minor snake bites in an emergency situation before seeking professional medical help.
Learn about snake behavior Knowing how to recognize snake behavior and signs of aggression can help you avoid coming into contact with snakes and prevent bites.
Be cautious around water sources Snakes are often found near water sources like streams, rivers, and lakes. Be especially cautious when hiking near these areas.

Overall, practicing awareness and taking necessary precautions when exploring Alaska’s wilderness can help to prevent snake bites and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Emergency Treatment for Snake Bites

When dealing with snake bites, time is of the essence. Immediate treatment is crucial to prevent the venom from spreading throughout the body. Here are some important steps to take:

  • Call for emergency medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Keep the affected limb immobilized and at or below heart level.
  • Remove any tight clothing or accessories near the bite site to allow for proper blood flow.

The following are some commonly used methods that should be avoided:

  • Incision or suction: These methods could worsen the injury and should only be performed by a trained medical professional.
  • Cold compress: Cooling the bite area could cause more harm than good by reducing blood flow and causing tissue damage.

Here is a table summarizing the different symptoms and treatment options for various types of venomous snakes found in Alaska:

Snake Symptoms Treatment
Copperhead Swelling and pain near the bite, nausea, vomiting, sweating, weakness Antivenom, pain medication, IV fluids
Rattlesnake Severe pain, swelling, bruising, bleeding, shock, respiratory distress Antivenom, pain medication, IV fluids, breathing support
Cottonmouth Swelling, pain, bleeding, respiratory distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea Antivenom, pain medication, IV fluids, breathing support

It is important to remember that prevention is the best medicine. Take precautions when venturing into areas where venomous snakes may be present. Wear protective clothing, such as boots and long pants, and use caution when lifting rocks or logs. Stay alert and keep a safe distance from snakes if you encounter one.

What Poisonous Snakes Are in Alaska?

1. Are there any venomous snakes in Alaska?

No, there are no native venomous snakes in Alaska.

2. What about non-native venomous snakes?

There have been reports of non-native venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes, being brought to Alaska as exotic pets, but they are not commonly found in the wild.

3. Are there any other dangerous snakes in Alaska?

While there are no venomous snakes in Alaska, there are some non-venomous ones that can still be dangerous. For example, the common garter snake can transmit salmonella through its bite.

4. Can the venomous snake from outside Alaska survive in the state?

The cold temperatures and harsh climate of Alaska make it difficult for non-native snakes to survive, let alone thrive.

5. What should I do if I see a snake in Alaska?

If you do encounter a snake in Alaska, stay calm and keep your distance. Most snakes in Alaska are harmless and will avoid humans if given the chance.

6. What do I do if I am bitten by a snake in Alaska?

If you are bitten by a snake in Alaska, seek medical attention immediately. Even non-venomous snake bites can become infected and cause serious health problems.

7. How can I prevent snake bites in Alaska?

To prevent snake bites in Alaska, wear sturdy shoes and avoid walking barefoot in areas known to have snakes. Keep your distance from any snakes you encounter and do not try to handle them.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has been informative and helpful in answering your questions about venomous snakes in Alaska. Remember that while there are no native venomous snakes in the state, it’s still important to exercise caution around non-venomous snakes. Thanks for reading and be sure to visit again for more tips and advice on staying safe in the great outdoors!