California Snakes and How to Find Them

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by Emily Taylor, 2024. Paperback, 208 pages.

A herpetologist introduces budding snake enthusiasts to the wonders of California snakes.

Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias in the world, yet step into any local zoo and you’ll find the snake pit to be among these menageries’ greatest attractions. In this entrancing ode to the charms of California’s legless reptiles, rattlesnake wrangler Emily Taylor shares her knowledge, enthusiasm, and advice for getting to know our slithering neighbors, dispelling the usual misapprehensions that surround them and celebrating their striking biological traits along the way.

Featuring profiles of the nearly 50 fork-tongued species that burrow and coil in California’s diverse habitats, and containing tips for serpent seekers—including identification guides and handling advice—California Snakes and How to Find Them delves into the longstanding myths and latest natural history research on our ophidian friends of the West. Taylor showcases the biodiversity of California’s snakes, from the Common Garter to the fetchingly pink Rosy Boa to the elusive Alameda Striped Racer, illustrated with more than 100 detailed photographs. Supported with critical insights—such as what to do during a venomous encounter, and an exploration of the seemingly simple question, What is a snake?—this guide is the perfect companion for both the seasoned naturalist and the budding snake enthusiast.

About the Author

Emily Taylor is a professor of biological sciences at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where she conducts research on the physiology, ecology, and conservation biology of lizards and snakes. A staunch advocate for improving the public image of snakes, especially rattlesnakes, Dr. Taylor is founder of the community science initiative Project RattleCam (, where members of the public help her and other scientists learn about rattlesnakes by analyzing photos and livestream footage from snake dens. She is owner of Central Coast Snake Services (, which helps people and snakes in California coexist safely and peacefully. She lives in Atascadero with her husband, Steve, and their menagerie of rescue animals, including Pax the dog, Baby the boa constrictor, Aperol Spritz the bearded dragon, and rattlesnakes Buzz and Snakeholio. Follow her on X @snakeymama.