One of the most asked questions by visitors is: Are there snakes in Alaska? Technically no, Alaska does not have snakes in the wild and is renowned for its complete absence of snakes as a state in the United States. Do not sigh in relief right away because the actual (and factual) answer to this question is a little more complex than that.
So, if you are curious or your visit to Alaska depends on confirming this fact or knowing more about it, then stick around while we reveal the fascinating facts behind this question.
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Is Alaska Really Snake Free?
Snakes are a pretty common species found in many countries, especially in tropical regions where the heat and humidity can get pretty severe. But after much research, there is still no official document confirming the existence of snakes native to the Alaskan wilderness – this includes venomous snakes (like rattles snakes) or otherwise. These reptilian species are not known to make a permanent life here. However, this does not mean that locals have not spotted a snake or two (or more) in Alaskan lands.
Despite it not being a breeding ground for snakes (we will soon tell you why), Alaska has no law against people buying harmless snakes for pets (from pet shops, obviously). However, there would have been a few cases of escaped pet snakes that may have made their way into the Alaskan wilds, and therefore the local news in Alaska. After some intensive searching (yes intensive), they were found and delivered to their owners, some not so much luck. In Alaska, people are also not allowed to hunt snakes in the wild or bring any they find to their homes.
There also have been sightings of Garter snakes, in gardens, and near hot springs (in the 1970s) but after that, there have been no such reports up to date.
Where Can I See Snakes In Alaska?
The only place you can definitely find snakes while in Alaska is the Alaska Zoo. It’s home to two ball pythons which were originally transported from North and West Africa. These two slithering reptilian friends have been vital in helping create awareness about snakes amongst locals and assisting them to understand snakes a little better without ignorantly fearing them.
So to call Alaska snake-free would be an overstatement. But your chances of encountering these scaled beauties are far less than winning a random raffle draw.
Are Garter Snakes Venomous?
Garter Snakes or Common Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are one of the few types that have been sighted more than once in Alaska according to records. But they are known to be rather harmless – that doesn’t mean that if you try to invade their space or provoke them for no reason, they won’t bite. And if you do get bitten (we won’t ask how) don’t stress, it’s not deadly – you will get a minor swelling at most.
However, make sure that you clean the bite thoroughly and get some medical treatment, and you should be fine.
Why is Alaska Not Snake-Friendly?
Snakes are cold-blooded – most reptiles and amphibians are. This means that they are always looking for ways to keep themselves warm in order to survive. Tropical countries, present no issues for such wildlife species.
But in Alaska, the winter never quite leaves. The ground is frozen for many months each year, and there is quite a bit of snow. Temperatures can go down to −10 °F, almost daily during the months of October- March.
Snakes on the other hand can only endure a temperature as low as 65 °F. Which is more than the warmest place in Alaska during summer. So it is definitely not the best surviving conditions for any cold-blooded animal, including our slithering friends.
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Other Dangerous Animals Found in Alaska
Lizards, crocodiles and freshwater turtles – like snakes are not native to Alaska. The weather conditions are notorious for reptiles of any kind. If you do see any of these reptilian fellows in the wild, chances are some exotic pet lover went an extra mile to bring them up in their homes, and they managed to escape.
While snakes are the least of your worries when you visit Alaska, there are some pretty large and threatening wild animals you will need to watch out for, especially if you are planning a lot of outdoor activities there.
Let’s start with Alaska’s state animal – the Alaskan Moose. Belonging to the largest of the deer family, a fully grown Alaskan Moose will weigh up to 1800 pounds, and it can stand nearly 8 feet tall to the top of its antlers. Very dangerous to humans. And if that’s not scary enough, they can also run up to 35 miles per hour.
Polar Bears are hypercarnivores, they can weigh up to almost a ton, grow as tall as 12 feet – and are extremely ferocious. Encounters with these dangerous beauties are thankfully rare. But maybe not as rare as encountering snakes.
Grizzly Bears and Black Bears – are much more commonly sighted, and they are extremely dangerous (especially Grizzlies, who are known to be very territorial and aggressive). Avoiding any encounter with them would be truly advisable.
Wolves – move in packs, and it is rare for them to attack humans. However, if you venture into unknown parts of Alaska without prior knowledge or expert guides to assist, you might encounter them, and they can become a very real threat.
Like Alaska, most wildlife that calls these expansive nippy lands home is also big – unlike snakes who can slither up unseen, you can clearly see what can kill you. On a positive note, if you suffer from a crippling fear of snakes or any kind of scale-covered reptile, then Alaska is the one place you will not come across them even if you try.
If you are not overly distracted by the cold, you will realise that Alaska is an absolutely stunning destination. It may not be the most sought after or one of the top bucket list holiday destinations for most, however, there is beauty there, and it’s worth exploring.