Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha nuchalata - California Nightsnake
Not considered dangerous to humans.
Adults can be 12 - 26 inches long (30-66 cm.) Most seen are 8 - 12 inches long, rarely over 16 inches. Hatchlings are about 7 inches in length.
A small slender snake with a narrow flat head, smooth scales in 19 rows, and vertical pupils.
Color varies, often matching the substrate, from light gray, light brown, beige, to tan or cream, with dark brown or gray blotches on the back and sides. Usually a pair of large dark markings on the neck and a dark bar through or behind the eyes. Whitish or yellowish and unmarked underneath.
Nocturnal, and also active at dusk and dawn. Can be found under rocks, boards, logs, and other surface objects. Sometimes seen crossing roads on warm nights.
Eats a wide range of terrestrial vertebrates, mostly lizards and their eggs, sometimes small snakes, frogs, and salamanders.
Lays eggs from April to September.
This subspecies, Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha nuchalata - California Nightsnake, is found along the south Coast Ranges from San Luis Obispo county north to the Bay Area, then north on the eastern slopes of the north Coast Range to Shasta County, and down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, basically ringing the central valley, but not found in the valley itself.
The species, Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha - Nightsnake, is found in a ring around the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, including the south coast ranges, and the inner north coast ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and south into coastal Southern California.
Found in a variety of habitats, often arid areas, from chaparral, Sagebrush flats, deserts, suburban lots and gardens, mountain meadows, grassland. Most commonly found in areas with abundant surface cover.
Sea level to 8,700 ft. (2,650 meters).
The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles based their 2008 list of scientific and common names on Mulcahy (2006, PhD dissertation, Utah State University). Mulcahy conducted a comprehensive genetics study of Hypsiglena, recognizing 6 species, three in the USA, and an undescribed species. He also maintained several subspecies designations.
Grismer et al. (1994 Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 93(2): 45-80) synonymized the Hypsiglena torquata subspecies deserticola and klauberi because they intergraded widely.