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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake -
Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis

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Range in California: Red

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Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, Kern County
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
  Adult, Riverside County  
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
  Adult, Riverside County  
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, Inyo County Adult, Riverside County
© Harold De Lisle
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, northeast Kern County
(Possible intergrade - showing some characteristics of C. o. talpina.)
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, northeast Kern County Adult male, San Bernardino County
© Trevor Yehle
This black and white snake was found in Riverside County © Brian Hinds
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Black and white phase adult from Riverside County  © Gregory Litiatco
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Adult, Riverside County 
© Gregory Litiatco
Adult, northern Riverside County © Brian Hinds
This snake from the Little San Bernardino Mountains, which are in the range of C. o. occipitalis, shows characteristics of the southern subspecies C. o. annulata - including some red markings and black bands that circle the body.

Habitat
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, Riverside County
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Habitat snake habitat  
Habitat, Riverside County

Habitat, Riverside County  
Short Videos
Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake  
Two views of a Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake crawling. Tired of being continually picked up and posed for the camera, this tiny but gutsy Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake finally got angry and struck repeatedly at the camera.  
Similar Snakes
Comparison chart of the 3 subspecies of Chionactis occipitalis in California, along with the similar sympatric species - Sonora semiannulata, and the similar species - Chilomeniscus stramineus.
 
 
Description

Not Dangerous to Humans
Size
Adults are 11 - 17 inches long (25 - 43 cm)
Appearance
Smooth, shiny scales, not keeled. The ground color is cream or yellowish and the body is circled with 24 or more dark brown bands, usually with no red crossbands between them. Most dark bands do not completely encircle the body. The head is narrow with a large spade-like scale on the tip of a flat shovel-like snout, a countersunk lower jaw, and nasal valves.
Behavior
Nocturnal. Burrows underground in daytime, but occasionally found by day in shaded areas. Smooth scales, flat shout, concave abdomen, and nasal valves are adaptations that allow for a quick swimming movement through loose sand, with an s-shaped, side-to-side movement. Often seen crossing desert roads at night.
Diet
Eats invertebrates: insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, larval insects and moths, often while the snake is burrowing.
Reproduction
Lays eggs late spring through summer.
Range
This subspecies, Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis - Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake, is found in the central southern California deserts to the base of the mountains - south and east of the Sierras and Tehachapis, and north and west of the Transverse and Peninsular ranges, north to around the Panamint Valley, south to near the Salton Sea, and east into southern Nevada and west central Arizona.

The species Chionactis occipitalis - Western Shovel-nosed Snake, occurs from the Southern California deserts into Nevada, western Arizona, to Baja California and northern Sonora, Mexico.
Habitat
Inhabits dry desert habitats with loose sand and often with little vegetation - washes, dunes, sandy flats, rocky hillsides.
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None.

Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids
Genus Chionactis Shovel-nosed Snakes
Species occipitalis Western Shovel-nosed Snake
Subspecies


occipitalis Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
Original Description
Chionactis occipitalis - (Hallowell, 1854) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 7, p. 95

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Chionactis - Greek - chion - snow and aktis - ray or beam
occipitalis
- Latin - pertaining to the back of the head

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Mojave Desert Shovelnose Snake

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. o. annulata - Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
C. o. talpina - Nevada Shovel-nosed Snake
S. s. semiannulata - Variable Groundsnake
R. l. lecontei - Western Long-nosed Snake

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

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

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.

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

Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.

Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press.



Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None

 

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