Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, occurs in portions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. In Utah, the species occurs only in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. The sidewinder is included on the Utah Sensitive Species List.

Sidewinders prefer sandy open terrain. They are mainly nocturnal, avoiding the extreme heat of the day, and are also inactive during cold weather. When inactive, sidewinders take refuge in the burrows of tortoises or small mammals.

Females give birth to five to eighteen live young during the fall. Sidewinders eat small mammals, such as kangaroo rats and pocket mice, and lizards. Birds and snakes are also occasionally consumed. Sidewinders subdue their prey by injecting venom through large fangs located at the front of the upper jaw.

Sidewinders can be easily identified by their characteristic side-winding, s-shaped motion. They are generally light-colored, with slightly darker spotting patterns of tan, gray, or yellow.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 336 pp.