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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Northern Three-lined Boa - Lichanura orcutti

Stejneger, 1889

 (Comprised of 2 former subspecies: Coastal Rosy Boa - L. t. roseofusca and Desert Rosy Boa - L. t. gracia)
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Rosy Boas Range Map
Range in California: Red






observation link





Northern Three-lined Boas formerly called Coastal Rosy Boa - Lichanura trivirgata roseofusca
Rosy Boa
Juvenile, Santa Ana Mountains, Riverside County © Nick Barrientos
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, San Diego County, Anza-Borrego locality Adult, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Rosy Boa
Juvenile, Imperial County,
Mountain Springs locality
Adult, San Diego County, Anza-Borrego locality Adult, Riverside County © Brian Hinds
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, Imperial County,
Mountain Springs locality
Juvenile, Imperial County,
Mountain Springs locality
Adult, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Adult, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
  Adult female, San Diego County, Lakeside locality  
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Juvenile male, San Diego County, Lakeside locality Adult, Imperial County, Mountain Springs locality.
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Tim Burkhardt
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, Imperial County, Mountain Springs locality Adult, Riverside County
© Brad Alexander
Juvenile, San Diego County
© Bruce Edley
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, San Diego County, rolled up in a defensive ball. © Sean Kelly Adult, Riverside County © Brian Hinds Juvenile, San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County © Ross Padilla
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult in habitat, Riverside County
© Brad Alexander
Adult, Santa Ana Mountains, Riverside County © Nick Barrientos Juvenile, Santa Ana Mountains, Riverside County © Nick Barrientos Juvenile, Santa Ana Mountains, Riverside County © Nick Barrientos
Rosy Boa      
Adult, San Diego County
© Douglas Brown
     
       
"Unicolor" Boas from Southern San Diego County
These snakes were classified as Lichanura trivirgata, Rosy Boa, following the findings of a study published in 2007, but those findings were changed following more accurate dna tests.
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult male, San Diego County, Otay Lake locality. Adult male, San Diego County,
Otay Lake locality.
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Rosy Boa
Rosy Boa
Unstriped "unicolor" Adult, San Diego County, Barret Lakes locality.
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Tim Burkhardt
Unstriped "unicolor" Adult, San Diego County. © Gary Nafis Unicolor adult, San Diego County
© Brian Hinds
Rosy Boa      
Unicolor adult, San Diego County
© Brian Hinds
     
       
Northern Three-lined Boas formerly called Desert Rosy Boa - Lichanura trivirgata gracia
Rosy Boa
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, Kern County, Lake Isabella locality.
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Robert Hansen
Adult, Inyo County, Death Valley locality.
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Tim Burkhardt
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult male, Imperial County. Black Mountain locality. Adult from San Bernardino County
© Mike Clarkson
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult female, Imperial County. Black Mountain locality
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Stuart Young.
Adult, Inyo County. © Chris Morrison
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, Riverside County, Corn Springs locality.
© Gary Nafis Specimen courtesy of Tim Burkhardt
Adult, Kern County desert © Ryan Sikola
Northern Three-lined Boa Northern Three-lined Boa Northern Three-lined Boa  
Adult, Arizona, locality unknown. © Gary Nafis. Specimen courtesy of Randy Babb.  
   
Intergrade between former subspecies "L. t. roseofusca"  and "L. t. gracia"
Rosy Boa
Adult above Palm Springs, Riverside County © Douglas Brown
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Sub-adult, San Bernardino County, Deep Creek locality. Found swimming at the edge of a creek at night.
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa
Adult, Riverside County, Verbenia locality. Adult, San Bernardino County, Morongo Valley locality. © Stuart Young Adult, San Bernardino County, Yucca Valley locality. © Stuart Young
Rosy Boa      
Adult above Palm Springs, Riverside County © Douglas Brown      
       
2009 Wildfire Rescue Boa
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa  
In late September, 2009, Lonnie Fehr found this adult boa in a canyon at the edge of the burn zone of the Station fire in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County. The boa remained beside a rock next to a trail, becoming a mascot to passing fire crews who were happy to see an animal that had escaped the fire. When it became apparent that the snake was sick and vulnerable, the snake was taken to a veterinarian. Dr. Clyde Pitts and staff X-rayed the snake and determined that it was suffering from dehydration and smoke inhalation, and that it had eaten a large gopher that had probably been burned in the fire and was not being digested normally. They administered vitamins and other treatment until the snake was ready to be returned to the wild. The pictures above show the snake after treatment as it was being released. © Lori Paul.  
     
Habitat
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Habitat, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Habitat, San Diego County,
Anza-Borrego locality
Habitat, Imperial County,
Black Mountain locality
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat
Habitat, Riverside County,
Whitewater locality
Habitat, Kern County,
Lake Isabella locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Lake Perris locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Lake Perris locality
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat
Habitat, San Gabriel Mountains locality, Los Angeles County © Ross P. Habitat, Riverside County © Brian Hinds Habitat, San Bernardino County,
Stoddard locality
Habitat, San Bernardino County,
Providence Mountains locality
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat
Habitat, San Bernardino County,
Deep Creek locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Verbenia Locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Joshua Tree locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Box Canyon locality
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat San Diego Ring-necked Snake Habitat Red Diamond Rattlesnake Habitat
Habitat, Imperial County,
Mountain Springs locality
Habitat, Imperial County,
Mountain Springs locality
San Diego County coastal sage habitat Habitat, hillside coastal chaparral,
San Diego County
Rosy Boa Habitat snake habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat
Habitat, Riverside County,
Hemet Locality
Habitat, Riverside County,
Whitewater locality
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County
Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat Rosy Boa Habitat  
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County  
       
Short Videos
Rosy Boa Rosy Boa Rosy Boa  
A Borrego boa crawls around on a spring nignt. A desert phase Rosy Boa crawls at night on a mountain road in Imperial County. A rosy boa discovered at night on a sand bar in the middle of a creek prepares to swim back to the shore.  
     
Description

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

Size
Adults 17 - 44 inches long (43 - 112 cm) but generally under 36 inches.
Hatchlings are 10 - 14 inches long.
Appearance
A heavy-bodied snake with smooth shiny scales and a blunt, but tapered tail.
The head is only a little wider than the neck.
Pupils are vertical.
Color and Pattern
The "roseofusca" pattern class typically has three poorly-defined irregular dark stripes, brown, reddish-brown, orange or rust in color, running lengthwise on the back and sides with a gray, olive-gray, bluish-gray or brownish ground color inbetween.
Flecks of the stripe color are usually present in the ground color.
Snakes with more contrasting even-edged stripes are associated with drier habitats.)
The belly is predominantly dark - often bluish to bluish-gray with dark flecks.

The "gracia" pattern class typically has three well-defined dark stripes, tan, brick red, rose, or reddish-brown in color, running lengthwise on the back and sides with a gray, cream, tan, yellowish or whitish ground color inbetween.
Flecks of the stripe color are rarely present in the ground color.
Snakes with more contrasting even-edged stripes are associated with drier habitats.
The belly is cream to grayish with dark flecks.


Rosy boas of all subspecies have been common pet snakes for many years. Breeders have produced new color morphs and, in order to promote regional variations in appearance, they have also designated sometimes confusing locality-specific names such as Verbenia, Corn Springs, Whitewater, Pioneertown, Long Canyon, Mojave, San Gabriel, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, Unicolor, Anza-Borrego, Harquahala, Bagdad, Baja Cape, San Felipe, Catavina, and Bay of LA, among others.
Male/Female Differences
Males have small spurs on each side of the vent which are vestigial hind limbs.

Life History and Behavior
Primarily active at dawn, dusk, and at night, rarely in daylight, but may be active in the morning, especially in cool weather.
In the hottest and coldest months of the year, remains inactive in burrows or under surface debris.
A good climber.

Sometimes rolls the body into a ball and hides the head when alarmed.
Diet and Feeding
Eats rodents, small birds, lizards, small snakes, and amphibians.
Kills prey by constriction.
Reproduction
Live-bearing; young are born October - November.

Habitat
Inhabits arid scrublands, semi-arid shrublands, rocky shrublands, rocky deserts, canyons, and other rocky areas.
Appears to be common in riparian areas, but does not require permanent water.

Geographical Range
Occurs from  the Baja California border in San Diego County north into the Mojave Desert and east into the Sonoran Desert of California, but absent from the Imperial Valley.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy
Rosy boa taxonomy can be confusing. The generic name Lichanura has been challenged, with some taxonomists placing the snake in the genus Charina, along with the Rubber Boas. The three traditional subspecies, gracia, roseofusca, and trivirgata, have also been challenged, with gracia and roseofusca placed into the subspecies myriolepis, and the Arizona populations into arizonense.

Since most Rosy Boas do not have the rosy ventral coloring which gives the snake its name, Robert Stebbins (Stebbins, 2003) has suggested using the common name Three Lined Boa, which was given the snake by the original describer (E. D. Cope, 1861.)

The most recent published study that I know of (Wood, Fisher and Reeder, 2007, discussed below) splits Lichanura into two species.

I removed L. trivirgata from my list of snakes found in California in 11/14, based on personal communications regarding the results of ongoing unpublished studies of nuclear data which showthat L. trivirgata does not occur in California but instead ranges north only to just south of El Rosario in Baja California (still making the former subspecies L. t. saslowi and L. t. trivirgata, L. trivirgata.)



Wood, Fisher and Reeder, in a 2007 study * used mtDNA and found 3 main clades within Lichinura trivirgata which did not correspond to recognized subspecies, leading them to recognize two species - Lichanura orcutti, and Lichanura trivirgata.

They describe the ranges of these two species in this way:

L. orcutti

"Distribution. North of the US–Mexico border within San Diego, County in California along the coastal Peninsular Ranges, northward into the Mojave Desert and eastward in the Sonoran Desert of California and Arizona. In Arizona this species inhabits areas north of the Gila River, except for individuals inhabiting the Gila Mountains."

(This species consists of the former subspecies L. t. roseofusca (excluding extreme southern San Diego County boas) and the former subspecies L. t. gracia, including the "Arizona Rosy Boa" phase.)

L. trivirgata

"Distribution. Extreme southern San Diego County, California within the Tijuana River and Otay watersheds, southward throughout the Baja California peninsula, and northwestern Mexico in the state of Sonora. In Arizona it can be found throughout isolated mountain ranges south of the Gila River in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal Counties."

(This species consists of the extreme southern San Diego County Lichanura formerly the subspecies Lichanura trivirgata roseofusca, including the "Unicolor" boas, the Mid-Baja " L. t. saslowi" boas, (also called L. t. myriolepis) and the Mexican Rosy Boa - L. t. trivirgata.)

Some San Diego County locations for this species are Otay Valley, Hollenbeck Canyon, Barrett Junctiion, Honey Springs, Skyline Truck Trail, and Marron Valley.


These findings contradict many years of accepted Rosy Boa taxonomy and the established pattern classes used by a large group of Rosy Boa hobbyists who have resisted the changes.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Lichanura trivirgata (Stebbins 1966, 1985, 2003, 2012)
Lichanura roseofusca roseofusca - California rosy boa; many-scaled boa; rubber snake; two-headed snake (Wright & Wright 1957)
Lichanura roseofusca gracia - Desert boa; California boa (Wright & Wright 1957)
Lichanura roseofusca - California Boa (Stebbins 1954)



Distribution of the two pattern classes of Rosy Boa (formerly two subspecies) found in California:

Red: Desert Rosy Boa - "gracia" pattern class
Orange: Coastal Rosy Boa - "roseofusca" pattern class
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Listed as a sensitive species by the USFS and the BLM (under the scientific name Charina trivirgata.)
Taxonomy
Family Boidae Boas and Pythons Gray, 1842
Genus Lichanura Rosy Boas Cope, 1861
Species

orcutti Northern Three-lined Boa Stejneger, 1889
Original Description
Stejneger, 1889

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Lichanura - Greek - lichanos - forefinger, and oura tail - possibly refers to the body form or the stumpy tail (that could be said to look like a finger)
orcutti - honors Orcutt, Charles R.

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

Related or Similar California Snakes
L. trivirgata - Rosy Boa
C. bottae
- Northern Rubber Boa
C. umbratica - Southern Rubber Boa

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

LocalityRosys.com

Borderboas.com

* Wood, Dustin A., Robert N. Fisher, and Tod W. Reeder. Novel patterns of historical isolation, dispersal, and secondary contact across Baja California in the Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46 (2008) 484–502. December 2007.

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 species is listed as Charina trivirgata - rosy boa.

Special Animals List Notes:

1) The Forest Service "Sensitive" designation refers only to the subspecies roseofusca.

2) The taxonomy of this species is in flux. The name Lichanura trivirgata is a synonym. Some sources list several subspecies while others don't recognize any subspecies.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G4G5 Apparently Secure - Secure
NatureServe State Ranking S3S4 Vulnerable - Apparently Secure
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 S Sensitive
IUCN LC Least Concern

 

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