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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Desert Glossy Snake - Arizona elegans eburnata

Klauber, 1946
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glossy snakes range map Range in California: Red

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Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
  Adult, San Diego County  
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
Adult, San Diego County Adult, Imperial County
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
Adult, San Bernardino County
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
Juvenile, Riverside County.
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Mohave Glossy Snake
Adult, San Diego County Adult, Riverside County © Jeff Kahler
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake  
Sub-adult, San Diego County, with an unusually reduced pattern.  
   

Snakes from areas near where two subspecies come into contact.
(Intergrades, or subspecies unknown)

California Glossy Snake California Glossy Snake California Glossy Snake
Adult, from an area of integradation in San Diego County
California Glossy Snake California Glossy Snake California Glossy Snake
Striped Adult intergrade wth A. e. eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake, San Diego County © Stuart Young Striped Adult intergrade wth A. e. eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake, San Diego County © Ross Padilla Sub-adult from an area of integradation in San Diego County
     
Habitat
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Glossy Snake Habitat  
Habitat, Imperial County

Habitat, early spring,
Riverside California desert
 
     
Short Videos
Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake Desert Glossy Snake
A large adult Desert Glossy Snake cruises along the desert ground at night. A tiny juvenile glossy snake is discovered under a board in early spring. Several views of a Desert Glossy Snake crawling around at night in the San Diego County desert.
   
Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Size
Adults 26-70 in. (66-178 cm) Average length is 3 - 4 feet.

Appearance
A medium-sized muscular snake with smooth, glossy scales, a faded or bleached-out appearance, and a short tail.
Color and Pattern
A light cream ground color with pale olive-brown blotches on the back and sides and a pale, unmarked underside.
Generally paler than other California Glossy snake subspecies -

An average of 68 narrow blotches on body.
Similar Snakes
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

Activity
Nocturnal. Burrows, hiding underground in daytime.
Diet and Feeding
Preys mostly on sleeping diurnal lizards, but also eats small snakes, terrestrial birds, and mammals. Kills prey by direct swallowing or constriction.
Breeding
Lays eggs in June and July.

Geographical Range
This subspecies, Arizona elegans eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake, occurs from southern Nevada, northwest Arizona and extreme southwest Utah south through eastern California into northeastern Baja California.

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.

Full Species Range Map
Habitat
Inhabits barren sandy desert, arid scrub, rocky washes.

Notes on Taxonomy
ICollins 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.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Arizona elegans eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake (Wright & Wright 1957, Stebbins 1966, 1985, 2003, 2012)
Arizona elegans eburnata
(SDNHS 1946)
Arizona elegans (Kennicott, 1859)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None.

Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Arizona Glossy Snakes Kennicott, 1859
Species elegans Western Glossy Snake Kennicott, 1859
Subspecies


eburnata Desert Glossy Snake Klauber, 1946
Original Description
Arizona elegans - Kennicott, 1859 - in Baird, U.S. Mex.
Arizona elegans eburnata - 1946 - Trans. San Diego Soc. Nat. Hist., Vol. 10, p. 350, pl. 8, fig. 1, text fig. 1, map

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
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
eburnata - Latin - made of ivory- refers to the pale color pattern

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar Neighboring California Snakes
A. e. candida - Mohave Glossy Snake
A. e. occidentalis - California Glossy Snake
P. decurtatus - Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
P. c. affinis - Sonoran Gophersnake
P. c. deserticola - Great Basin Gophersnake

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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.

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.


Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.
Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN

 

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