Western Shovel-nosed Snake
Some other names for this species:
Western Shovelnose Snake
Subspecies I've seen:
Chionactis occipitalis annulata
Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
Borrego Springs, San Diego County, California—April 21, 2009
These little serpentine jewels were the species I came across most often crossing the roads at night in a week and a half in Borrego Springs. They would move across the road in a leisurely way until they became aware of my presence, at which point they would start thrashing like mad, moving rapidly in an S-shaped pattern. When they got off the road, they would typically start burrowing into the sand immediately, and I had to take fast action to prevent them from escaping before I could get any photos.
Most of the shovel-noses were the three-colored type as pictured in the first two photos above. But occasionally I'd find one that had almost none of the red color, making them look like a different species entirely, as shown in the third photo above.
Borrego Springs, San Diego County, California—April 22, 2009
Here's one more little beauty from the next evening.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California—April 23, 2009
And another from the evening after that. Their bright colors made these snakes really visible against the road or sand, but once they started their high-speed slithering the colors washed together and they seemed to vanish almost instantly.
Borrego Springs, San Diego County, California—June 22, 2012
It seems that one of the best places to find these beautiful little snakes in the Borrego Springs area is right downtown on the main road.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California—May 13, 2013
Matt Cage and I saw four of these little lowland guys in half an hour or so before we headed up to higher ground to see what else we could discover. We turned around before we even got to our target Chionactis area; probably we could have found a dozen or more if we had tried.
- Bartlett, R. D., Tennant, A. 2000. Snakes of North America, Western Region
- Brown, P. R. 1997. A Field Guide to Snakes of California
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2012. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39:1-92.
- Ernst, C. H., Ernst, E. M. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada
- Lemm, J. M. 2006. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition