CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake -
Chionactis occipitalis annulata

(Baird, 1859 “1858”)
Click on a picture for a larger view




Range in California: Blue

Click the map for a guide
to the other subspecies.




observation link





Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
  Adult with little red, Imperial County  
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
  Juvenile, San Diego County  
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Many-banded juvenile, San Diego County
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult with little red, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County
© Jeremiah Easter
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult with little red, Riverside County Adult, San Diego County, found by David Young. Photo © Stuart Young Juvenile, Imperial County
     
Habitat
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, Imperial County
Habitat, Imperial County Habitat, Imperial County
     
Short Video
  Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake  
  A nocturnal Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed snake crawls across the desert floor.
 
     
Similar Snakes
Comparison chart of the 3 subspecies of Chionactis occipitalis in California,
along with the similar sympatric species - Sonora semiannulata,
and the similar species - Chilomeniscus stramineus.

 
Description

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

Size
Adults are 11 - 17 inches long (25 - 43 cm)

Appearance
A small rounded snake with smooth, unkeeled, shiny scales.
The head is narrow with a large spade-like scale on the tip of a flat shovel-like snout, a countersunk lower jaw, and nasal valves.
Color and Pattern
The ground color is cream or yellowish and the body is circled with black bands, usually fewer than 25, and most often with narrow red crossbands between them.
Many black bands completely encircle the body.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Nocturnal.
Burrows underground in daytime, but occasionally found by day in shaded areas.
Smooth scales, flat shout, concave abdomen, and nasal valves are adaptations that allow for a quick swimming movement through loose sand, with an s-shaped, side-to-side movement.
Often seen crossing desert roads at night.
Diet and Feeding
Eats invertebrates: insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, larval insects and moths, often while the snake is burrowing.
Breeding and Young
Lays eggs late spring through summer.

Habitat
Inhabits dry desert habitats with loose sand and often with little vegetation - washes, dunes, sandy flats, rocky hillsides.

Geographical Range
This subspecies, Chionactis occipitalis annulata - Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake, is found in extreme southeastern California, east of the desert slope of the peninsular range to the Colorado River. Outside of California, it ranges south into Baja California and northern Sonora, Mexico, and east into southwestern Arizona.

The species Chionactis occipitalis - Western Shovel-nosed Snake, occurs from the Southern California deserts into Nevada, western Arizona, to Baja California and northern Sonora, Mexico.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy
Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

C. o. annulata -
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake (Stebbins 1966, 1985, 2003, 2012)
C. o. annulata -
desert snake - banded snake; colorado desert shovel-nosed snake; tricolor ground snake; tricolor spade-nosed snake (Wright & Wright 1957)
C. o. annulata -
(Stebbins 1954)
C. o. annulata -
Shovel-nosed ground snake (Klauber 1932)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids
Genus Chionactis Shovel-nosed Snakes
Species occipitalis Western Shovel-nosed Snake
Subspecies

annulata Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Original Description
Chionactis occipitalis - (Hallowell, 1854) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 7, p. 95
Chionactis occipitalis annulata - (Baird, 1859) - U.S. Mex. Bound. Surv., Vol. 2, Rept., Pt. 2, p. 22, pl. 21

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Chionactis - Greek - chion - snow and aktis - ray or beam
occipitalis
- Latin - pertaining to the back of the head
annulata - Latin - ringed - referring to the banded body

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz
Alternate Names
None

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. o. occipitalis - Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
C. o. talpina - Nevada Shovel-nosed Snake
C. stramineus - Variable Sandsnake 
S. s. semiannulata - Variable Groundsnake
R. l. lecontei - Western Long-nosed Snake

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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