Salvadora hexalepis virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Considered harmless to humans.
Salvadora hexalepis ranges in size from 10 - 46 inches long (25 - 117 cm). Most snakes seen will be around 26 - 36 inches (66 - 91 cm).
A fast, moderately-sized slender striped snake with smooth scales, large eyes, and a large scale over the tip of the snout. Well-camouflaged, this snake is gray to brown with a broad yellow or tan stripe down the middle of the back (but narrower than the other subspecies), and dark brown sides (with no light stripes). The top of the head is brown. The underside is cream, sometimes shading to pale orange at the tail end.
Little is known about the natural history of this species. Active during daylight, even in times of extreme heat. Terrestrial, but may climb shrubs in pursuit of prey. Burrows into loose soil. Able to move very quickly. Their acute vision allows them to escape quickly when they feel threatened, making this snake sometimes difficult to capture during the heat of the day. When cornered, they will inflate the body and strike.
Eats mostly lizards, along with small mammals, and possibly small snakes, nestling birds, and amphibians.
Lays eggs, probably May to August.
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.
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.
Inhabits semi-arid brushy areas and chaparral in canyons, rocky hillsides, and plains.
Salvadora hexalepis occurs at elevations from below sea level to around 7,000 ft. (2,130 m.).
There are four subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis, with three occuring in California: S. h. hexalepis - Desert Patch-nosed Snake, S. h. mojavensis - Mohave Patch-nosed Snake, and S. h. virgultea - Coast Patch-nosed Snake. S. h. deserticola - Big Bend Patch-nosed Snake, which occurs in the Southwest, is recognized by many taxonomists as a unique species, Salvadora deserticola, leaving them to recognize only three subspecies of Salvadora hexalepis.
Conservation Issues (Conservation Status)
This snake is considered uncommon along the southern coast area due to land changes from heavy grazing, development and loss of former habitat, though it's natural history and abundance have never been well-known or extensively studied. The state of California lists this subspecies as status: special concern.