Alaska is famous for its breathtaking landscape, exceptional hot springs, and extreme weather. And in recent years it’s also become somewhat famous for claims that the state has no snakes. A big bonus for snake-o-phobes who aren’t a fan of the slithering kind.
So are there snakes in Alaska? For many years the official answer was a resounding no. However new sightings and information are beginning to show that Alaska’s claim to fame as a no-snake state is slowly coming to an end.
Are there snakes in Alaska? The short answer is Yes, the long answer is it’s complicated
But let’s start with the positives.
Alaska doesn’t have snakes that will cause harm to humans. That’s always good to hear, especially if you’re from an area of the world where you always have to be wary when opening the shed, or shifting that pile of wood that’s been laying around the yard for months.
However Alaska does have one kind of snake – the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). There have been several sightings of this snake in Alaska in recent years (particularly in the Alaskan Panhandle), and while these sightings haven’t been officially confirmed, it seems highly likely that they are real sightings considering there have been multiple reports of garter snakes in Alaska for more than a decade. In fact even the Alaska Herpetological Society has made mention of these snakes in the past too.
Garter snakes were previously thought to be non-venomous, but discoveries in the last two decades have shown that they do actually have a mild venom. They’re not very good at delivering that venom though, which is why for many years people thought they were completely harmless.
In the few cases where people have been bitten, the reaction has resulted in bruising and some swelling. Certainly not a nice experience, but not the worst either – especially when it comes to snakes!
Do these snakes attack?
Typically no. Usually when disturbed they tend to try and get away from humans. That said, bites have happened in the past and they have been known on rare occasions to coil and then strike at people if they feel threatened. In general though, they are pretty harmless.
Where can they be found in Alaska?
Most sightings of garter snakes have been concentrated around the Alaskan Panhandle – the southeastern part of the state.
What do you do if you find one?
If you find one of these snakes then leave them alone. You can report the sighting to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What do they eat?
Garter snakes typically eat insects like worms, small fish and amphibians. However some have also been known to eat small mammals and birds.
Are there snakes in Alaska: To sum up
Although officially Alaska is a no-snake state, reports over the last few years have shown that there are snakes in Alaska. Thankfully those snakes are common garter snakes, a species that only have a very mild venom and naturally tend to shy away from humans. Most sightings have occurred in the Alaska Panhandle, so if you are staying in this region then it’s worth keeping an eye out.
If you’re not a fan of snakes, that’s not a reason to stay away from Alaska though. The likelihood of coming across a snake here is incredibly rare, while the experiences you will have by visiting this stunning state are second to none. As we’ve written about before. (Related: Breathtaking hot springs in Alaska).
What about other reptiles and amphibians?
Cold regions of the world like Alaska are notoriously hard places for reptiles to survive and thrive.
In fact because of that, there are no lizards in Alaska. Although there are a few kinds of salamander and newt in the state. There’s also four known sea turtles in Alaska too.
There are a few frog species in Alaska as well. The most common are the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), the Columbia spotted frog (R. luteiventris), and the western toad (Bufo boreas).
As places go, if you’re not a fan of reptiles then Alaska is one of the best destinations for you!
Are there any poisonous spiders in Alaska?
There’s a common saying that all spiders are venomous, but not all are poisonous. That’s important as in Alaska you won’t find either of the two U.S. medically significant poisonous spider species – Brown recluse spiders and Black Widows. In that sense, there are no dangerous spiders in Alaska.
However the Alaskan Panhandle has been home to the Hobo spider (Tegenaria agrestis) since the 1930s, and this spider does have mild venom. Although it’s not known to cause issues to humans.
Alaska also has some larger spider species too, such as Fishing spiders (Dolomedes) and Wolf spiders (Lycosidae). These two spiders are the largest in Alaska, and their legs can reach around 3 inches in length. That means one of these monsters can reach up to 6-7 inches in length from leg to leg!