Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sharp-tailed Snake

The sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis) is a small snake with a sharp tail end, a blunt head and distinct underside. The back is brown with a copper colored line on each side.

I was returning from a check of the watertank on June 8, 2008 about 6:00 pm when I saw a stick on the dirt road in the shade of oaks. Ahhh, actually, it was a small snake. I stepped back to pull my gloves off my pack and then leaned over to snatch it up. Gee, my curiosity actually gave me the courage to pick up a snake. When I saw the white underside with stark black crossbars, I vaguely remembered reading about such a snake.

Snake calmly traveled in my gloved hand to the house where we browsed the library for snake books. With a quick reference to the excellent photos in Alan St. John's book, I realized my bookish companion was a sharp-tailed snake, the first I had ever seen. They have a sharp spine at the tip of their tail. There might be a short-tailed species and a long-tailed species, but at the time, I didn't read far enough and didn't know to measure the tail. I am hoping to see more sharp-tailed snakes so I can get some tail metrics.

I took the sharp-tailed snake back to his original location, and let him go near a drainage where he might find some slugs for dinner. Sharp-tailed snakes are not listed as rare but I rarely hear people mention them, so I think they are rarely seen.

See also:
Alan St. John, Reptiles of the Northwest, Lone Pine Publishing, 2002.
California Herps


  1. oooo..i love snakes :)
    Where abouts in CA are you?
    Im in southern cal!


  2. Near the coast of San Mateo County, south of San Francisco. It's amazing to still find ranches and open land here.


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