Rhinocheilus lecontei - Long-nosed Snake
Considered harmless to humans.
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).
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. Most snakes are tricolored, 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 snakes have no red. These are considered the "clarus" phase, and at one time were regarded as a distinct subspecies, Rhinocheilus lecontei clarus.
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.
When threatened, may vibrate the tail, writhe the body, and evert the vent, excreting blood and cloacal contents.
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.
Lays eggs June to August.
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. Also ranges north in the deserts east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as far as the Honey Lake Basin in Lassen County. Ranges south of California in northern Baja California, east into Nevada, Utah, Arizona, barely into New Mexico, and south into Mexico. An isolated population occurs in Idaho.
Arid and semi-arid deserts, grasslands, shrublands, and prairies. Sea level to 6,200 ft. (1,900 m).
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.
Conservation Issues (Conservation Status)