Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mohave Shovel-Nosed Snake

I have only seen one Mohave shovel-nosed snake, which is a subspecies of the western shovel-nosed snake. It was the evening of May 3, 1993, driving the roads of Whitewater Canyon with Gregg Palmer. Gregg spotted it on the road at the entrance to the canyon, right next to the I-10 freeway. He spotted it on the road, from high up in a large pickup truck. From my position on the passenger side, I couldn't see a thing. They are small, between 11 and 17 inches in length. They are cream or yellowish in color, with 40 or more black bands (that do not connect on the underside). They usually have no red crossbands between the black bands, where, by contrast, the Colorado Desert subspecies has red bands between the black bands and the black bands connect on the underside.

This shovel-nosed snake has very faint red markings between the black bands.


They are nocturnal and move rapidly through loose sand by wriggling, rather than tunneling. They have a narrow head with a flat-shovel-like snout (for which they get their name) and an inset lower jaw and nasal valves that enable their travel through sand.

They eat insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, larval insects and moths, often while the snake is traveling through the sand. The picture below gives an idea of how small the snake is if does a figure-8 around my fingers.

They are found in central Southern California in the deserts up to the bases of the mountains. They are also found in a small portion of southern Nevada and north eastern Arizona. The picture below shows the underside.


6 comments:

  1. Can I just say that Animal Planet has NOTHING on you, Boy! You could write a book, do a TV show, film a movie. You are the Ken Burns of reptiles and mammals.

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  2. Just had one in my house tonight. It was hiding behind a small ceramic piece on the floor just inside the front door. I saw the cat "playing" with something... and was hoping it wasn't a scorpion or a spider. Nope. It was a tiny little snake. If I had been more calm, I would have gotten photos before brushing it out the door with a broom. I had no idea what it was at the time, so I didn't want to take any chances. It was so vivid in color that at first I thought it was fake. It most certainly was not... and it slithered out very quickly.

    Very cool little creature.

    Not sure how to post this... so I am posting under anonymous. But I am Julie from Cave Creek, AZ.

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  3. I found a young snake that looks like your shovel nose snake - in my yard in the evening, hiding under a pile of leaves. Its appearance was quite striking; didn't look like a rattler which is common around here. However, this youngster was definitely wagging its tail as though it wished it was a rattler. Do you know if this is a behaviorial trait of shovel nose snakes?

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    1. In a quick look online I was not able to find anything indicating they exhibit that trait, but I have seen that trait in a number of different types of snakes and would not be at all surprised if the shovel nosed snake does it.

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  4. It's Harmless I have 2 of them. They have not shown any signs of aggressiveness. They fit in the palm of your hand. I one of them for about 2 weeks the other a couple of days. They very easy to catch were I caught mine. They are Mojave Shovel-nosed very Dosile

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    1. Hi, Anon. I also have a Shovel nosed snake, and he has been in my care for six months, and has shed three times for me. (I guess I'm doing something right!) How long have you had yours?

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