CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Coast Patch-nosed Snake -
Salvadora hexalepis virgultea

Bogert, 1935
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Patch-nosed Snakes California Range Map
Range in California: Orange

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observation link





Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
The 8 pictures above are all of the same adult snake from San Diego County. Adult, San Diego County © Jay Keller
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, San Pasqual Valley, San Diego County © Jason Jones Adult, Dulzura, San Diego County
© Jason Jones
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County © Taylor Henry
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
© Jake Sibley Jake found this adult snake foraging around some holes on a trail in San Diego County. You can see its tracks from where it was crawling around. It was easy to approach when the snake's head was in a hole as long as he froze when its head was out so the snake didn't run off. It kept poking its specialized dirt-poking snout into the loose dirt looking for something to eat before crawling away.
 
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, Campo, San Diego County.
© 2005 William Flaxington
Adult, San Diego County
© 2005 Jeremiah Easter
Neonate, from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County © Andreas Kettenburg
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, Los Angeles County © Gregory Litiatco
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake  
Adult, San Diego County © Douglas Brown  
 
Feeding and Predation
northern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake northern pacific rattlesnake
A California Striped Racer eats a Coast Patch-nosed Snake in Los Angeles County, near Altadena. © David Couch A Coast Patch-nosed Snake trying to kill and eat a San Diegan Tiger Whiptail in San Diego County © Tom Day
Watch a video of this at the link below.
     
Habitat
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Gabriel Mountains,
Los Angeles County
© William Flaxington
Habitat, San Diego County
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat  
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County  
     
Short Videos
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Patch-nosed Snake Patch-nosed Snake
A Coast Patch-nosed snake races across a dirt road into the brush. 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. A Coast Patch-nosed Snake trying to kill and eat a San Diegan Tiger Whiptail in San Diego County © Tom Day
   
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.
The loreal scale is divided into 2 - 4 scales.

Color and Pattern
Well-camouflaged, this snake is gray to brown with a broad yellow or tan stripe down the middle of the back (but narrower than the other subspecies), and dark brown sides (with no light stripes).
The underside is cream, sometimes shading to pale orange at the tail end.
The sides may be dark on all but the lowermost 1 or 2 scale rows.
The top of the head is brown.
The middorsal stripe is usually 1 and 2 half scales wide.
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.
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.

Habitat
Inhabits semi-arid brushy areas and chaparral in canyons, rocky hillsides, and plains.

Geographical Range
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 virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake, occurs in California from the northern Carrizo Plains in San Luis Obispo County, south through the coastal zone, south and west of the deserts, into coastal northern Baja California.

There is also a 1958 sight record from Corral Hollow in San Joaquin County.
(Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt. Lizards - Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press, 2003. (Laurie Vitt, Page 6.)


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

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)
This snake is considered uncommon along the southern coast area due to land changes from heavy grazing, development and loss of former habitat, though it's natural history and abundance have never been well-known or extensively studied. The state of California lists this subspecies as a California Species of Special Concern.
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Salvadora Patch-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species hexalepis Western Patch-nosed Snake (Cope, 1866)
Subspecies

virgultea Coast Patch-nosed Snake Bogert, 1935
Original Description
Salvadora hexalepis - (Cope, "1866" 1867) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 18, p. 304
Salvadora hexalepis virgultea - Bogert, 1935 - Bull. S. California Acad. Sci., Vol. 34, Pt. 1, p. 89

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
virgultea - Latin - underbrush, chapparel - refers to the southern CA brush or chapparal habitat

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

Alternate Names
None

Related or Similar California Snakes
S. h. hexalepis -Desert Patch-nosed Snake
S. h. mojavensis - Mohave Patch-nosed Snake
C. f. piceus - Red Racer
C. fuliginosus - Baja California Coachwhip

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.


The 2016 Special Animals List lists this subspecies separately.

Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G5T4 The species is: Secure—Common; widespread and abundant.

This subspecies is: Apparently Secure—Uncommon but not rare; some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking S2S3 Imperiled - Vulnerable
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN Not listed

 

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