Early fall seems to be nightsnake time at the Dipper Ranch. California nightsnakes (Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha nuchalata) are small snakes with a bit of venom, just enough to subdue a frog or lizard but not enough to hurt a human. They are active at night, so we rarely see them. In October 2007, I found one in my springbox. And mid-September 2008, I found this fellow in the same location, a covered underground concrete vault about 5 feet deep that collects the slow oozing of upslope springs. Night snakes are supposed to like arid lands, so I don't know what they are doing in my springbox. Maybe the bitter end of the rainless California summer brings them to the sound of dripping water. Their brown blotched color makes them easy to confuse with rattlers and gopher snakes, but they have distinct copper-gold eyes with vertical slits. Neither fellow tried to bite me, although I handle and move snakes with net, tongs and leather gloves. I released the night snakes to a dry slope on the ranch away from the springbox. This year, I first shared the visitor with my country neighbors and preserve volunteers so more people will recognize and be less likely to mix up this interesting snake with rattlesnakes.
Reptiles of the Northwest, Alan St. John, Lone Pine Press