The snake above was found at 4,000 ft. in San Diego County in an area where snakes with the appearance of both S. h. hexalepis and S. h. virgultea are found, but the broken side stripes, the mostly 3 scale wide middorsal stripe, and the pale color of the top of the head indicate that it is a Desert Patch-nosed Snake.
A cold and sluggish Desert Patch-nosed Snake is gently prodded with a stick to encourage it to move for the camera, but the snake retaliates by racing away in a blur in typical patch-nosed snake fashion.
An intergrade patch-nosed snake on a dirt road in the morning makes a few attempts to get away from me, then after waiting patiently for the right moment, finally dashes across the road to freedom.
Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous) - This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.
Salvadora hexalepis ranges in size from 10 - 46 inches long (25 - 117 cm).
Most snakes seen will be around 26 - 36 inches (66 - 91 cm).
A fast, moderately-sized slender striped snake with smooth scales, large eyes, and an enlarged rostral (the scale over the tip of the snout.)
There are 9 upper labial scales, usually only the sixth one reaches the eye.
Color and Pattern
Well-camouflaged, this snake is pale gray with a broad yellow or tan stripe down the middle of the back, and dark stripes on the sides.
The middorsal stripe is usually 3 scales wide.
The underside is cream, sometimes shading to pale orange at the tail end.
The top of the head is gray.
Comparison of the 3 subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis found in California.
Life History and Behavior
Little is known about the natural history of this species. These notes are based on observations of the species as a whole.
Diurnal - active during daylight, even in times of extreme heat.
Terrestrial, but also climbs shrubs in pursuit of prey.
Burrows into loose soil.
Able to move very quickly.
Acute vision allows this snake to escape quickly when threatened, making it sometimes difficult to observe or capture during the heat of the day.
Enlarged back teeth might be used to envenomate prey. (Grismer, 2002)
The enlarged rostral scale (on the tip of the nose) is thought to be useful in excavating buried lizard eggs.
It may also be used to dig into underground burrows: A Western Patch-nosed Snake in San Bernardino County was observed in an apparent attempt to catch a small rodent by forcefully ramming its head into the dirt at the base of a Creosote bush which opened a small hole in the ground, and crawling into the hole. A small rodent emerged from a different hole under the bush and ran away. (Herpetological Review 44(2), 2013)
When When cornered, will inflate the body and strike. , they will inflate the body and strike.
Diet and Feeding
Eats mostly lizards, especially whiptails, along with small mammals, and possibly small snakes, nestling birds, reptile eggs, and amphibians.
Lays 4-12 eggs, probably between May and August. (Stebbins, 2003)
Inhabits open arid and semi-arid areas - deserts, brushland, grassland, and scrub in canyons, rocky hillsides, sandy plains.
The species Salvadora hexalepis - Western Patch-nosed Snake, is found in southern California, Nevada, extreme southwestern Utah, Arizona, southeastern New Mexico, west Texas, and south into western Mexico, including Baja California.
This subspecies, Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis - Desert Patch-nosed Snake, occurs in California in the southeast, from the desert slopes of the mountains north to roughly Riverside County, and beyond the state south into Baja California and Sonora, Mexico, and east into southeastern Arizona.
Salvadora hexalepis occurs at elevations from below sea level to around 7,000 ft. (2,130 m.) (Stebbins, 2003)
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.
NatureServe Global Ranking
The species is: Secure—Common; widespread and abundant.