Thursday, October 8, 2009

California Lyre Snake

The California lyre snake is one of four subspecies of the lyre snake. They are found in a portion of Southern California and part of the way down into Baja California. They are from 1 1/2 to 4 feet long and are very thin. The lyre, a musical instrument in ancient Greece, had two curved arms connected by a yoke from which strings were connected to the body.

The lyre snake has a marking on its head which resembles the lyre, thus its name.

The lyre snake has a vertical pupil, like a cat, that gives it an evil appearance.

They are light brown to pale gray above with brown, hexagonal shaped (six sided) blotches on the back, split by a pale crossbar.

Hexagonal markings:

The head protrudes noticably from the slim neck and the eyes bulge out noticably from the head. They coil and shake their tails, much like a rattlesnake. In fact, they are poisonous, but are rear-fanged, meaning they have to bite and chew to inject their poison, and their mouths are small, so it is difficult for them to bite anything too large. The lyre snake in these photos was captured in Whitewater Canyon in November 1995. I have had several pet lyre snakes. I fed them small mice, pinkies or fuzzies, which they killed by constriction. They are feisty and I have been bitten on several occasions with no ill effects.

They are nocturnal and tend to spend the day deep in the crevices of large rocks. The primarily eat lizards, but also eat small mammals, nesting birds, bats and snakes.

They are fun pets because they are so unusual looking and feisty. However, they tend to hide until mealtime, when they agressively attack the mice.

They are also very good escape artists. I had one get out of a plastic aquarium in our garage and I have no idea how it got out. I think that they are so thin that they can squeeze through openings that you would not imagine them getting through.

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