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Culberson County, Texas

Map by Jeff Barringer
Text by Troy Hibbitts

click to enlarge

Physical Geography

Culberson county is a rural county in the Northwestern Trans-Pecos Area. The County consists of 3,851 square miles. Geologically, Culberson County is highly varied, but dominated by several mountain ranges: the Apache, Baylor, Beach, Delaware, Guadalupe, Sierra Diablo, Van Horn, and Wylie Mountains, including the highest point in Texas - Guadalupe Peak, at 8,749 feet. However, much of the county and most of the roadways lie in a broad, sandy valley interspersed with salt flats which lies between the Sierra Diablo and Delaware mountains, and only very few roads actually traverse the mountainous habitat favored by Lampropeltis alterna.


Culberson County can be considered a desert or desert grassland, with an average rainfall of 11.10 inches (as compared to the 21.0 inch average for the rest of the state). Much of the plant life consists of grasses, cacti, and desert shrubs (including creosote, acacia, and mesquite). In the higher reaches of the Delaware Mountains, juniper is common. In the Guadalupe Mountains, a much more diverse flora can be found, with Bigtooth Maple, Texas Madrones, and many varieties of Oaks dominating the canyons, and with Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and Aspen predominating in the higher elevations.


Culberson is a small county in terms of population, with an estimated population of 3,660 - most of whom live in Van Horn (the county seat and largest town). Pine Springs in Guadalupe National Park is the next most populous area in the county, and Kent is the only other town (virtually a ghost town).

Popular Lampropeltis alterna collecting Localities

Very few Gray-banded Kingsnakes have ever been collected in Culberson County. The only museum records which exist are from US Hwy 62/180 where the Highway passes over the northern reaches of the Delaware Mountains near Guadalupe National Park. One other specimen was collected on private land in the Beach Mountains in 1993, and possibly other snakes have been collected in the Van Horn mountains. Certainly no more than ten alterna have ever been collected in this county, probably fewer than five.

The following are road-accessible localities where L. alterna should occur, based upon habitat and the occurance of other species typically found with L. alterna, principally the Trans-Pecos Ratsnake and Rock Rattlesnake:

US 62/180 as it crosses the Delaware Mountains near Guadalupe National Park
Rocks here are predominately Permian Shales.

TX Hwy 54, approximately 10 to 15 miles north of Van Horn
As the road skirts the edge of the Baylor Mountains. Rocks here are predominately Permian Limestones. Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes are common here.

FM 2185, approximately 28 miles NE of Van Horn
As 2185 passes through the Northern edge of the Apache Mountains. Rocks here are Permian shales and limestones, Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes are common; however, less than 2 miles of habitat exists here.

FM 2424, approximately 5-10 miles north of Kent
On the eastern edge of the Apache Mountains. Rocks are predominately Permian and Cretaceous Limestones and Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes are common; however, the habitat here is relatively flat and lacks much of the fractured rock structure that L. alterna prefer.

Interstate 10, west of Van Horn
Passes through mixed formations of metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks of Cambrian origin. Although road collecting along the interstate is not recommended, the wide right-of-way could be walked to collect possible Kingsnakes.

Interstate 10, near Kent
Habitat similar to on FM 2424. Again, walking the extensive road right-of-way could produce an alterna. - main page