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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Long-nosed Snake - Rhinocheilus lecontei

Baird and Girard, 1853
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Long-nosed Snake Range Map
Red: Range in California


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Map with California County Names





observation link





Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County Adult, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County. Adult, Inyo County © Ryan Sikola
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Alameda County Adult, Imperial County Adult, coastal Riverside County
© Nick Barrientos
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Alameda County Adult, San Benito County © Neo S Adult, Bakersfield, Kern County
© Patrick Briggs
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, coastal San Diego County
© Bill Bachman
Adult, coastal San Diego County
© Aaron Wells
Adult, Lassen County © Loren Prins
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Kern County © Ryan Sikola Adult, Riverside County desert
© Cooper Bailey
Adult, coastal Riverside County
© Nick Barrientos
Underside of adult, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Stanislaus County  © Jared Heald Adult found a couple of miles north of Bakersfield in Kern County Juvenile, Contra Costa County.
© Richard Porter
Adult found in San Benancio Canyon west of Salinas in Monterey County.
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Mono County © Adam Clause Adult, Mono County © Adam Clause Adult, coastal San Diego County
© Taylor Henry
Juvenile, Stanislaus County
© Adam Gitmed
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult from the Central Valley near Bakersfield, Kern County © Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg Adult and habitat in the San Bernardino County desert © Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg
       
Long-nosed Snakes With Little or No Red Coloring
Long-nosed Snake
Adult with little red, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult with little red, San Diego County "Clarus" phase adult lacking red, San Diego County © Dick Bartlett Adult with faint red, San Diego County This adult found in Inyo County lacks the red that is usually found on this species, and has a much lower band count than is normal with few of the white markings that are typically found on the dark bands. © Ryan Sikola
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake    
Anerythristic adult, Inyo County
© Chris Morrison
Adult, Mono County © Adam Clause    
       
Long-nosed Snake Defensive Behavior
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake  
San Diego County adult in defensive position after smearing blood all over itself. Adult, San Diego County, in defensive position after having smeared itself with blood. © William Flaxington This video shows a Long-nosed Snake using a disgusting but effective defensive behavior - it coils up with jerky movements then smears itself with red fluid from its cloaca. After that I certainly did not want to touch the snake again.  
       
Long-nosed Snakes Feeding
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Chad M. Lane found this adult Long-nosed Snake in Alameda County eating another adult Long-nosed Snake. A report of the sighting was published in Herp Review in 2009 as the first documented occurance of cannibalistic behavior in this species. © Chad M. Lane Battle of the Long-Noses
An adult Long-nosed Snake was found in Kern County coiled around a Long-nosed Leopard Lizard, attempting to swallow the lizard. The lizard managed to keep its mouth outside the snake's mouth and after 20 minutes, the lizard was able to escape the snake's coils and quickly limp away. It's not known if the lizard survived or died later from its injuries. © Greg Watson
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake  
Adult eating a Great Basin Whiptail, Riverside County © Lynette Schimming  
     
Habitat
Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert San Diego County coastal sage habitat
Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat Western Black-headed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, Alameda County grassland Habitat, Alameda County grassland Habitat, Alameda County grassland Habitat, Riverside County desert riparian
Speckled Rattlesnake Habitat      
Habitat, east side of Santa Ana Mountains, Riverside County
© Nick Barrientos
     
       
Short Videos
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
A Long-nosed snake crawls across a road in San Diego County. This video shows a Long-nosed Snake using a disgusting but effective defensive behavior - it coils up with jerky movements then smears itself with red fluid from its cloaca. After that I certainly did not want to touch the snake again. A black and white Long-nosed snake crawls at night in the Arizona desert. Watching this short video you can get an idea of how this fairly fast snake moves.
     
Description

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

Size
16 - 60 inches long (40 - 152 cm). Most snakes seen are 16- 30 inches long (40 - 76 cm).
Hatchlings from 7 - 11 inches (18 - 28 cm).

Appearance
A slender snake with smooth scales and a head barely wider than the body which has a long pointed snout with a countersunk lower jaw.
Color and Pattern
Most snakes are red, black, and white, with a saddled pattern.
The ground color is white which is usually heavily speckled with black and red from the alternating red and black saddles. The saddles do not ring the body. The underside is cream or yellow with no pattern.

Some long-nosed snakes snakes have no red coloring. These have been called the "clarus" phase, and at one time were regarded as a distinct subspecies, Rhinocheilus lecontei clarus.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Crepuscular and nocturnal.
Occasionallly found out at mid day.
Relatively cold-tolerant, especially in the northernmost part of its range.
Good burrowers, spending much time underground, often in lizard and mammal burrows.
Commonly found on roads at night.
Defense
When threatened, may vibrate the tail, writhe the body, and evert the vent, excreting blood and cloacal contents.
Diet and Feeding
Eats primarily lizards (especially whiptails), also lizard eggs, small snakes, small mammals, nestling birds, possibly bird eggs, and insects. Small prey is overpowered, large prey is killed by constriction.
Reproduction
Lays eggs June to August.

Habitat
Arid and semi-arid deserts, grasslands, shrublands, and prairies.

Geographical Range
In California, occurs throughout the south coast and deserts, north through the central valley and Coast range, excluding the coast, north to the Sutter Buttes, Sutter County. Not recorded from the coast north of Santa Barbara County, but possibly present there. Also ranges north in the Great Basin desrt as far as the Honey Lake Basin in Lassen County.

Several Mono County records including the northernmost record for California east of the Sierra Nevada were documented in 2016.
Herpetological Review 47(2), 2016


Outside of California the species is found in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and northern Mexico including Baja California.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
Sea level to 6,200 ft. (1,900 m).

Notes on Taxonomy
Related to and sometimes similar in appearance to the California Kingsnake. Long-nosed snakes have most of the caudal scales in a single row, while Kingsnakes have caudal scales in a double row.

Two subspecies of R. lecontei were once recognized, R. l. lecontei, and R. l. tesselatus - Texas Long-nosed Snake.

Manier (2004, Biol. J. Linn. Soc., 83:65-85) using morphological analysis, concluded that no subspecies of Rhinocheilus lecontei should be recognized. R. l. tesselatus and R. l. lecontei become R. lecontei.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Rhinocheilus lecontei
- Western Long-nosed Snake (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei - Western Long-nosed Snake (Stebbins 1954, 1966, 1985, 2003)
Rhinocheilus lecontei clarus (Stebbins 1954)
Rhinocheilus lecontei - Long-nosed Snake (Leconte's Snake) (Grinnell and Camp 1917)
Le Conte's Snake (Yarrow 1882)
Scale-nosed snake (Cronise 1868)
Sharp-nosed snake
Western long-nosed snake

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Rhinocheilus Long-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species

lecontei Long-nosed Snake Baird and Girard, 1853
Original Description
Rhinocheilus lecontei - Baird and Girard, 1853 - Cat. N. Amer. Rept., Pt. 1, p. 120

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Rhinocheilus - Greek - rhinos nose or snout and cheilo - lip - "Rostral prominent forwards, rounded beneath, tapering upwards"
lecontei
- honors Le Conte, John L.

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

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. a. annulata - Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
C. occipitalis - Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
S. s. semiannulata - Variable Groundsnake
L. g. californiae - California Kingsnake

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.

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.

Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the July 2022 State of California "Special Animals List" and the July 2022 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and can be downloaded here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals.
You can check this link to see if there are more current lists.

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found on the
Special Animals List. For quick reference, I have copied some of them on my Special Status Information page.

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 animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.
Organization Status Listing  Notes
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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