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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Long-nosed Snake - Rhinocheilus lecontei

Baird and Girard, 1853
Click on a picture for a larger view



Long-nosed Snake Range Map
Range in California: Red



observation link



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Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County.
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, San Diego County Adult, San Diego County Adult, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Alameda County Adult, Imperial County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult, Alameda County Adult, Bakersfield, Kern County
© Patrick Briggs
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Juvenile, Contra Costa County.
© Richard Porter
Adult, coastal San Diego County
© Aaron Wells
Adult, coastal San Diego County
© Taylor Henry
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult with little red, San Diego County "Clarus" phase adult lacking red, San Diego County © Dick Bartlett Adult with faint red, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake  
Anerythristic adult, Inyo County
© Chris Morrison
Adult, Lassen County © Loren Prins  
     
Defense
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake  
San Diego County adult in defensive position after smearing blood all over itself. Adult, San Diego County, in defensive position after having smeared itself with blood. © William Flaxington  
     
Feeding
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
Adult eating a Great Basin Whiptail, Riverside County © Lynette Schimming
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake  
Chad M. Lane found this adult Long-nosed Snake in Alameda County eating another adult Long-nosed Snake. A report of the sighting was published in Herp Review in 2009 as the first documented occurance of cannibalistic behavior in this species,
© Chad M. Lane
 
   
Habitat
Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County
Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat Western Black-headed Snake Habitat
Habitat, Alameda County Habitat, Alameda County Habitat, Alameda County grassland
Long-nosed Snake Habitat Long-nosed Snake Habitat  
San Diego County coastal sage habitat Habitat, Riverside County  
     
Short Videos
Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake Long-nosed Snake
A Long-nosed snake crawls across a road in San Diego County. This video shows a Long-nosed Snake using a disgusting but effective defensive behavior - it coils up with jerky movements then smears itself with red fluid from its cloaca. After that I certainly did not want to touch the snake again. A black and white Long-nosed snake crawls at night in the Arizona desert.
  Long-nosed Snake  
  Watching this short video you can get an idea of how this fairly fast snake moves.
 
   
Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Size
16 - 60 inches long (40 - 152 cm). Most snakes seen are 16- 30 inches long (40 - 76 cm).
Hatchlings from 7 - 11 inches (18 - 28 cm).

Appearance
A slender snake with smooth scales and a head barely wider than the body which has a long pointed snout with a countersunk lower jaw.
Color and Pattern
Most snakes are red, black, and white, with a saddled pattern.
The ground color is white which is usually heavily speckled with black and red from the alternating red and black saddles. The saddles do not ring the body. The underside is cream or yellow with no pattern.
Some snakes have no red. These are considered the "clarus" phase, and at one time were regarded as a distinct subspecies, Rhinocheilus lecontei clarus.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Crepuscular and nocturnal.
Occasionallly found out at mid day.
Relatively cold-tolerant, especially in the northernmost part of its range.
Good burrowers, spending much time underground, often in lizard and mammal burrows.
Commonly found on roads at night.
Defense
When threatened, may vibrate the tail, writhe the body, and evert the vent, excreting blood and cloacal contents.
Diet and Feeding
Eats primarily lizards (especially whiptails), also lizard eggs, small snakes, small mammals, nestling birds, possibly bird eggs, and insects. Small prey is overpowered, large prey is killed by constriction.
Breeding
Lays eggs June to August.

Geographical Range
In California, occurs throughout the south coast and deserts, north through the central valley and Coast range, excluding the coast, north to the Sutter Buttes, Sutter County. Not recorded from the coast north of Santa Barbara County, but possibly present there. Also ranges north in the deserts east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as far as the Honey Lake Basin in Lassen County.

Outside of California found in northern Baja California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, barely into New Mexico, and south into Mexico. An isolated population also occurs in Idaho.
Elevational Range
Sea level to 6,200 ft. (1,900 m).

Habitat
Arid and semi-arid deserts, grasslands, shrublands, and prairies.

Notes on Taxonomy
Related to and sometimes similar in appearance to the California Kingsnake. Long-nosed snakes have most of the caudal scales in a single row, while Kingsnakes have caudal scales in a double row.

Two subspecies of R. lecontei were once recognized, R. l. lecontei, and R. l. tesselatus - Texas Long-nosed Snake.

Manier (2004, Biol. J. Linn. Soc., 83:65-85) using morphological analysis, concluded that no subspecies of Rhinocheilus lecontei should be recognized. R. l. tesselatus and R. l. lecontei become R. lecontei.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Rhinocheilus Long-nosed Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species

lecontei Long-nosed Snake Baird and Girard, 1853
Original Description
Rhinocheilus lecontei - Baird and Girard, 1853 - Cat. N. Amer. Rept., Pt. 1, p. 120

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

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Rhinocheilus - Greek - rhinos nose or snout and cheilo - lip - "Rostral prominent forwards, rounded beneath, tapering upwards"
lecontei
- honors Le Conte, John L.

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

Alternate Names
Rhinocheeilus lecontei lecontei - Western Long-nosed Snake

Related or Similar California Snakes
C. o. annulata - Colorado Desert Shovel-nosed Snake
C. o. occipitalis - Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake
C. o. talpina - Nevada Shovel-nosed Snake
S. s. semiannulata - Variable Groundsnake
L. g. californiae - California Kingsnake

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 animal 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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