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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake - Phyllorhynchus decurtatus

(Cope, 1868)
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Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake California Range MapRange in California: Red




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Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
Adult with peach coloring, San Diego County
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County Pale adult, Imperial County
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
  Adult, Imperial County  
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
  Adult, Riverside County  
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County © Jason Jones Adult, Riverside County, © Patrick Briggs
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake
Adult, San Bernardino County

Adult, Inyo County Adult, Imperial County
Habitat
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert Habitat, San Diego County desert
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Habitat  
Habitat, riparian canyon,
Riverside County

Habitat, Riverside County desert
 
Short Videos
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake  
A leaf-nosed snake craws across the desert floor. As shown here, this snake is typically found on a paved desert road at night. Using a serpentine motion, it is capable of moving quickly over the asphalt.  
Description
Not Dangerous to Humans
Size
12 - 20 inches long (30 - 51 cm.)
Appearance
A small pale snake with dark blotches, smooth scales and a blunt snout. The rostral scale over the nose is enlarged and raised above the level of the other scales, giving this snake its name, as the scale looks like part of a leaf folded over the nose. The ground color is pale tan, pink, or greyish with brown blotches on the back from the back of the head to the tail. The underside is white and unmarked. Pupils are vertical. Some males may have weekly keeled scales.
Behavior
Active at night. The enlarged rostral scale may help this snake burrow through sand in search of prey. When threatened, may draw back and strike. Secretive - at one time thought to be very rare, until Laurence Klauber discovered that they were common after finding them on paved desert roads at night in 1922.
Diet
Small lizards, especially banded geckos, and lizard eggs.
Reproduction
Lays eggs, probably June - July.
Range
Occurs from Inyo County south through the Mojave and Colorado deserts up to the desert base of the mountain ranges. Ranges east into Nevada and the southwest edge of Utah, south to the Baja California cape region, and through western Arizona south along the western coast of Mexico.
Habitat
Sandy or gravelly deserts - open flats, washes, alluvial fans, foothills. Creosote bush is typically present. From below sea level in the Imperial Valley to about 4,000 ft. (1,200 m.)
Taxonomic Notes
McDiarmid and McCleary (1993, Cat. Am. Amphib. Rept.:579.1-5) and Gardner and Mendelsoh (2004, J. Herpetology 28: 187-196) determined that no subspecies of Phyllorhynchus decurtatus should be recognized. Previously, several subspecies of Phyllorhynchus decurtatus were recognized, including P. d. perkinsi - Western Leaf-nosed Snake (this snake), P. d. nubilis - Clouded Leaf-nosed Snake, and P. d. decurtatus - Baja California Leaf-nosed Snake.
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None.

Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Phyllorhynchus Leaf-nosed Snakes Stejneger, 1890
Species


decurtatus Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake (Cope, 1868)
Original Description
Phyllorhynchus decurtatus - (Cope, 1868) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 20, p. 310

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Phyllorhynchus - Greek - phyllon - leaf and rhunkos - beak or snout - refers to the nose shield which "resembles a thick leaf"
decurtatus
- bbb

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

Alternate Names
Formerly known as Phyllorhynchus decurtatus perkinsi - Western Leaf-nosed Snake.
Also known as the Spotted Leafnose Snake.
Related or Similar Neighboring California Snakes
H. t. deserticola - Desert Nightsnake
A. e. eburnata - Desert Glossy 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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