CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Coast Patch-nosed Snake -
Salvadora hexalepis virgultea

Bogert, 1935
Click on a picture for a larger view



Patch-nosed Snakes California Range Map
Range in California: Orange

Click the map for a key to the other subspecies




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
The 8 pictures above are all of the same adult snake from San Diego County
Coast Patch-nosed Snake 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
Neonate, from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County © Andreas Kettenburg
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County © Taylor Henry Adult, Campo, San Diego County.
© 2005 William Flaxington
Coast Patch-nosed Snake 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. Adult, San Diego County
© 2005 Jeremiah Easter
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, Los Angeles County © Gregory Litiatco Adult, San Diego County © Jay Keller
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County © Douglas Brown Adult, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles County © Huck Triggs
       
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 Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County 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 Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Gabriel Mountains,
Los Angeles County
© William Flaxington
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Habitat      
Habitat, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles County © Huck Triggs      
       
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
The species Salvadora hexalepis ranges from 10 - 46 inches long (25 - 117 cm).
Most snakes seen are 26 - 36 inches (66 - 91 cm) in length.

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, only one usually reaches the eye.
The loreal scale is divided into 2 - 4 scales.

The conspicuously enlarged rostral scale and middorsal stripe differentiate this snake from all other species in its range.

Color and Pattern
Well-camouflaged, this snake is gray to brown with dark brown sides (without any light stripes) and a broad yellow or tan stripe down the middle of the back (which is narrower than the stripe found on other subspecies of patch-nosed snakes).
The underside is cream colored, 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 width of the pale middorsal stripe is usually 1 full scale bordered by 2 half scales.
Similar Subspecies Found in California
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.
Activity
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)
Defense
When cornered, 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.
Breeding
Lays 4-12 eggs, probably between May and August. (Stebbins, 2003)

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.) (Stebbins, 2003)

Notes on Taxonomy

There are five subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis, with three occurring in California:
S. h. hexalepis
- Desert Patch-nosed Snake,
S. h. mojavensis
- Mohave Patch-nosed Snake
,
S. h. virgultea
- Coast Patch-nosed Snake,
S. h. klauberi - Baja California Patch-nosed Snake, and
S. h. deserticola
- Big Bend Patch-nosed Snake,
which occurs in the Southwest, is recognized by some taxonomists as a unique species, Salvadora deserticola.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Designated a California Species of Special Concern.
Considered uncommon along the southern coast area due to land changes from heavy grazing, development and loss of former habitat, and loss of prey.
Described as "...declining or absent from large areas of the Los Angeles basin and along the coast to San Diego." (Thomson, Wright, and Shaffer, 2016)
This subspecies has been considered uncommon since it was described, so its current scarcity "...may suggest a moderate decline of the last 60 years." (Thomson, Wright, and Shaffer, 2016)

"Because a large component of its diet probably consists of Aspidoscelis species, S. h. virgultea may be susceptible to decline in areas where Aspidoscelis are declining. The two species found within its range, the orange-throated whiptail (A. hyperythra) and the coastal whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri) are both under threat." (Thomson, Wright, and Shaffer, 2016)
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.

Robert C. Thomson, Amber N. Wright, and H. Bradley Shaffer. California Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern. University of California Press, 2016.

Grismer, L. Lee. Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, Including Its Pacific Islands and the Islands in the Sea of Cortés. The University of California Press, 2002.


Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the April 2018 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List, both of which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW 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.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.



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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