Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous) - This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.
Adults are 26-70 inches in length (66-178 cm). (Stebbins, 2003) Average length is 3 - 4 feet.
A medium-sized muscular snake with smooth, glossy scales, a faded or bleached-out appearance, and a short tail.
Color and Pattern
Smooth, glossy scales with a faded or bleached-out appearance - a light brown, gray, cream, or pink ground color with tan brown or gray blotches on back and sides with black edges and a pale, unmarked underside.
An average of 63 narrow blotches on body.
Comparison of the 3 subspecies of Arizona elegans in California,
along with sympatric species similar in appearance:
Pituophis catenifer - Gopher Snake,
Trimorphodon biscutatus - Lyre Snake,
Hypsiglena - Night Snakes,
Coluber constrictor mormon - Western Yellow-Bellied Racer (juvenile).
Life History and Behavior
Hides underground in daytime under rocks, in exsisting burrows, or uses its specialized nose to make its own burrow.
Diet and Feeding
Preys mostly on sleeping diurnal lizards, but also eats small snakes, terrestrial birds, and nocturnally-active mammals.
Hunts active mammals at night by waiting in ambush.
Kills prey by direct swallowing or constriction.
Lays from 3 - 23 eggs (more often 5-12) in June and July. (Stebbins, 2003)
Eggs most likely hatch in late summer and early fall.
Inhabits barren open sandy desert, desert scrub, rocky washes, grasslands.
Appears to prefer microhabitats of open areas and areas with soil loose enough for easy burrowing.
This subspecies, Arizona elegans candida - Mohave Glossy Snake, occurs from Inyo County south through most of the Mojave Desert, and east into southwestern Nevada.
The species Arizona elegans - Western Glossy Snake, has a very wide range, occurring through most of the southwest, and the southeastern part of the Midwest, and south into Mexico, including northern Baja California.
The species is found from below sea level to around 7,218 ft. (2,200 m). (Stebbins, 2003)
Notes on Taxonomy
'The spelling of the word "Mojave" or "Mohave" has been a subject of debate. Lowe in the preface to his "Venomous Reptiles of Arizona" (1986) argued for "Mohave" as did Campbell and Lamar (2004, "The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere"). According to linguistics experts on Native American languages, either spelling is correct, but using either the "j" or "h" is based on whether the word is used in a Spanish or English context. Given that this is an English names list, we use the "h" spelling (P. Munro, Linguistics, UCLA, pers. comm.).'
(Taxon Notes to Crotalus scutulatus, SSAR Herpetological Circular no 39, published August 2012, John J. Moriarty, Editor.)
Collins elevated the western Glossy Snakes - A. e. occidentalis, A. e. eburnata, and A. e. candida - to specific status (Arizona occidentalis) (1991, Herp. Review 22:42-43) with the eastern Glossy Snakes remaining Arizona elegans, but this change has not been widely accepted.
Arizona - 1.) Latin - areo - to be dry and zona - belt of earth - refers to the geographical distribution
2.) arizonac - place of springs - American Indian word, refers to the Arizona region
elegans - Latin - fine or elegant- refers to the color pattern candida - Latin - shining white or bright - "subspecies characterised by its light color..."
Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.
Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.
Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.
Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.
Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.
Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.
Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.
Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1957.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the November 2020 California "Special Animals List" and the November 2020 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.
This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.