Habitat, early spring,
Riverside California desert
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Diego County
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.
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
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.
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 sandy desert, arid scrub, rocky washes.
Appears to prefer microhabitats of open areas and areas with soil loose enough for easy burrowing.
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.
The species is found from below sea level to around 7,218 ft. (2,200 m). (Stebbins, 2003)
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.
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
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.
Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.
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.
Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "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.