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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California






Black-headed Snakes found in California

 










observation link

 
Black-headed Snakes are small, slender, secretive snakes that spend much of their time underground.Active day and night. Most often found underneath surface objects and rocks, sometimes on roads at night. Two species occur in California.


Not Dangerous
(Non-poisonous) 
Black-headed Snakes do not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Smith's (Southwestern) Black-headed Snake - Tantilla hobartsmithi
Smith's Black-headed Snake

Red: Range of Smith's Black-headed Snake



Western Black-headed Snake - Tantilla planiceps
Western Black-headed Snake Western Black-headed Snake

Red: Range of Western Black-headed Snake
 
Keys to the 2 Species of Black-headed Snakes (Tantilla) found in California
  Smith's Black-headed Snake
Tantilla hobartsmithi
Western Black-headed Snake
Tantilla planiceps
 
Dark Cap Extends "1/2 - 3 scales beyond the end of the furrowbetween parietal scales"

Does not extend below the corner of the mouth
"Usually extends 2-3 scale lengths beyond posterior of parietals"

Extends 1/2 - 2 scales below the corner of the mouth
Light Collar 1/2 - 2 scale rows wide

Usually there are no dark band or spots bordering the rear edge of the collar
1/2 - 1 scale row wide

May or may not be bordered by dark spots
Hemipenes "Hemipenes club-shaped with enlarged globular tip and 2 medium to large spines at base." "Hemipenes nearly cylindrical without enlarged globular tip, lacking small spines near enlarged basal spine."

* Based on information from:

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.








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