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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Desert Patch-nosed Snake -
Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis

(Cope, 1866)
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Patch-nosed Snakes California Range Map
Range in California: Red


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observation link





Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
  Adult, San Diego County  
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
  Adult, San Diego County  
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, Riverside County
© Glen Vargas
Adult, Riverside County
© Harold DeLisle
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
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.
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, San Bernardino County
© Bo Zaremba
Adult, Imperial County © Bill Bachman
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake tracks Desert Patch-nosed Snake tracks
Adult, Imperial County
© Ed Pirog
Salvadora tracks on a sandy road, San Diego County
     
Desert Patch-nosed Snakes From Outside California
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, Maricopa County, Arizona Detail of side stripes
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake  
Adult, Maricopa County, Arizona  
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Desert Patch-nosed Snake  
Adult, La Paz Co., Arizona
© Dick Bartlett
Adult, Arizona
© Jeremiah Easter
 
     
Habitat
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, Riverside County desert Habitat, Imperial County desert Habitat, Imperial County desert
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Bernardino County desert Intergrade habitat,
San Diego County mountains
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Desert Patch-nosed Snake Habitat  
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, Imperial County © Bill Bachman  
     
Short Videos
Desert Patch-nosed Snake 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.  
   
Description

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

Size
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).

Appearance
A fast, moderately-sized slender striped snake with smooth scales, large eyes, and a large scale over the tip of the snout.
There are 9 upper labial scales, one usually 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.
Similar Subspecies
Comparison of the 3 subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis found in California.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Little is known about the natural history of this species.
Active during daylight, even in times of extreme heat.
Terrestrial, but may climb shrubs in pursuit of prey.
Burrows into loose soil.
Able to move very quickly.
Their acute vision allows them to escape quickly when they feel threatened, making this snake sometimes difficult to capture during the heat of the day.

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)
Defense
When cornered, they will inflate the body and strike.
Diet and Feeding
Eats mostly lizards, along with small mammals, and possibly small snakes, nestling birds, and amphibians.
Breeding
Lays eggs, probably May to August.

Geographical Range
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.

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.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
Salvadora hexalepis occurs at elevations from below sea level to around 7,000 ft. (2,130 m.)

Habitat
Inhabits open arid and semi-arid areas - deserts, brushland, grassland, and scrub in canyons, rocky hillsides, sandy plains.

Notes on Taxonomy
There are four subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis, with three occurring in California: S. h. hexalepis - Desert Patch-nosed Snake, S. h. mojavensis - Mohave Patch-nosed Snake, and S. h. virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake. S. h. deserticola - Big Bend Patch-nosed Snake, which occurs in the Southwest, is recognized by many taxonomists as a unique species, Salvadora deserticola, leaving them to recognize only three subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Salvadora Patch-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species hexalepis Western Patch-nosed Snake (Cope, 1866)
Subspecies

hexalepsis Desert Patch-nosed Snake (Cope, 1866)
Original Description
Salvadora hexalepis - (Cope, "1866" 1867) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 18, p. 304

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Salvadora - Latin - salvus - whole, sound, well preserved and dura - hide or skin -- "body covered w/smooth scales"
hexalepis
- Greek - hex - six and lepisma - scale - refers to the 6th supralabial reaching the eye in the holotype

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

Alternate Names
The common name is sometimes written Desert Patchnose Snake.

Related or Similar California Snakes
S. h. mojavensis - Mohave Patch-nosed Snake
S. h. virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake
C. f. piceus - Red Racer

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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