More Information About Reptiles

Viper Snakes

Family Viperidae

The prairie rattlesnake is the only representative of the Family Viperidae in Alberta. As a member of the Subfamily Crotalinae (or Pit Vipers), the prairie rattlesnake has specialized heat-sensing organs located within a pit on each side of its head between its eye and nostril. Other characteristics include a broad triangular head and slender neck, vertical pupils and rattle or button on the end of its tail; traits not found in other Alberta snakes.

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Prairie Rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis

Water or Pond and Box Turtles

Family Emydidae

The western painted turtle is the only native representative of the Family Emydidae in Alberta. Any sighting should be studied carefully to ensure it is not a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta), a non-native turtle. Red-eared sliders look similar to painted turtles in form and size but have a prominent broad reddish stripe behind each eye.

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Western Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta

Spiny Lizards

Family Phrynosomatidae

The mountain (greater) short-horned lizard is the only representative of the Family Phrynosomatidae in Alberta. They are flat, oval-shaped lizards covered in sharp projecting scales, especially on the head and along each side of the body.

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Mountain (Greater) Short-horned Lizard
Phrynosoma hernandesi

Colubrid Snakes

Family Colubridae

Colubrid snakes in our area are difficult to characterize as they vary in form and size—generally they are moderately slender or heavy-bodied with a head that is only slightly wider than the neck.

photo: Gerald Romanchuk

Plains Hog-nosed Snake
Heterodon nasicus

photo: Gerald Romanchuk

Pituophis catenifer

photo: Kyle J. Welsh

Yellow-bellied Racer
Coluber constrictor

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Wandering Garter Snake
Thamnophis elegans

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Plains Garter Snake
Thamnophis radix

photo: ACA, Kris Kendell

Red-sided Garter Snake
Thamnophis sirtalis