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Wildlife > Reptiles > Snakes

Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans

Family: Colubridae Order: Squamata Class: Reptilia


This snake is common throughout southern California especially in desert regions. Less common to the north, glossy snakes occur in the interior Coast Ranges as far as Mount Diablo in Contra Costa Co. Glossy snakes are most common in desert habitats but also occur in chaparral, sagebrush, valley-foothill hardwood, pine-juniper, and annual grass. Elevation from below sea level to 1830 m (6,000 ft).


Feeding: Glossy snakes feed on a variety of desert lizards including juvenile desert iguanas (Cunningham 1959), and zebra-tailed lizards (Vitt and Ohmart 1977). They are listed as probable predators of side-blotched lizards by Ferguson et al. (1982). Captive individuals have been observed to eat young mice and small birds (Stebbins 1954).

Cover: Primarily nocturnal, glossy snakes spend periods of inactivity during the day and during winter in mammal burrows and rock outcrops, and to a lesser extent under surface objects such as flat rocks and vegetation residue. Individuals occasionally burrow in loose soil.

Reproduction: Eggs are laid a few centimeters below the surface in loose soil, under surface objects or near the base of vegetation, or in abandoned mammal burrows.

Water: No information on water requirements. Glossy snakes are most common in arid regions. Standing water is not an important habitat element.

Pattern: Prefer open sandy areas with scattered brush, but also found in rocky areas.


Activity Patterns: Although some diurnal activity has been reported, glossy snakes are most active at night. Individuals are most commonly encountered in May and June in the south. In the interior Coast Ranges another activity peak occurs prior to the first rains of fall. Periods of winter inactivity occur at all localities.

Seasonal Movements/Migration: Predictable seasonal movements have not been reported for this species in California.

Home Range: The nature of the home range in this species is unknown.

Territory: No evidence for the territorial defense of resources has been reported.

Reproduction: Eggs are probably laid in early July. Clutch sizes range from 3 to 23 (mean 8 or 9). Hatching occurs from late August to mid-September (Stebbins 1954, Aldridge 1979). Mating probably occurs in the spring soon after the end of the period of winter inactivity.

Niche: Glossy snakes may be taken by mammals, owls, and other snakes. The nature of competitive interactions with other species of snakes is unknown. The diet of glossy snakes overlaps to some extent with that of several species of desert snakes.

Also see:

Joshua Tree National Park Wildlife
Mojave Glossy Snake Arizona occidentalis candida Prefers sandy areas, but also occurs on hard pan or in rocky areas; northern section (common) ...

Death Valley Snakes
Desert Patch-nosed Snake Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis Rocky and sandy areas from lower slopes and washes up to 6000 feet. Desert Glossy Snake ...

Death Valley Wildlife
Males are glossy-black with long tails; the brown females have shorter tails. ... Sidewinder (snake) The rattlesnakes are found mainly in lower elevations. ...


Aldridge, R. D. 1979. Female reproductive cycles of the snakes Arizona elegans and Crotalus viridis. Herpetologica 35:256-261.

Cunningham, J. D. 1959. Reproduction and food of some California snakes. Herpetologica 15:17-19.

Dixon, J. R., and R. R. Fleet. 1976. Arizona, A. elegans. Cat. Am. Amphibians and Reptiles 179.

Ferguson, G. W., K. L. Brown, and V. C. DeMarco. 1982. Selective basis for the evolution of variable egg and clutch size in some iguanid lizards. Herpetologica 38:178-188.

Klauber, L. M. 1946. The glossy snake, Arizona, with descriptions of new subspecies. Trans. San Diego. Soc. Nat. Hist. 10:311-398.

Stebbins, R. C. 1954. Amphibians and reptiles of western North America. McGraw-Hill, New York. 536pp.

Vitt, L. J., and R. D. Ohmart. 1977. Ecology and reproduction of lower Colorado River lizards: I. Callisaurus draconoides (Iguanidae). Herpetologica 33:214-222.

Vitt, L. J., and R. D. Ohmart. 1977. Ecology and reproduction of lower Colorado River lizards: II. Cnemidophorus tigris (Teiidae), with comparisons. Herpetologica 33:223-234.


Arizona elegans
Eastern Glossy Snake. Photo credits. Diagnostic Features:. Adult Size: 20-35 inches; Color:. Brown spots with dark border on cream ground color. ...

Arizona elegans eburnata - Desert Glossy Snake
Smooth, glossy scales with a faded or bleached-out appearance, generally paler than other California Glossy snake subspecies - a light cream ground color ...

Glossy Snakes found in California
Glossy Snakes found in California. Click on a picture for a larger view. Glossy snakes are fairly large, slow-moving nocturnal snakes inhabiting deserts and ...

Arizona elegans, the California Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans occidentalis - California Glossy Snake Photos by Chris Brown. Scientific name: Arizona elegans occidentalis. Common name: California Glossy ... - Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
We found this snake crawling across a road at about 9:00 PM. Glossy snakes look like smaller, less strongly-patterned gophersnakes. They're nocturnal in the ...

Glossy snake-Arizona Biodiversity Image Gallery
Arizona elegans Glossy snake. Yuma Co.- KOFA mountains, 01 Oct 2005.

Glossy snake
The glossy snake (Arizona elegans) and its many subspecies are all similar in appearance to gopher snakes. They are small, with narrow, pointed heads, ...

Glossy Snake
Photo by Chris Brown

Glossy Snake
Photo by Chris Brown

Glossy Snake
Photo by Chris Brown

Additional information:

Scientific name: Arizona elegans occidentalis

Common name: California Glossy Snake

Size: 25.2-38.9 in (64-99 cm)

Distinguishing characters: Smooth, glossy scales; chocolate colored body blotches on a tan or light brown ground color; prominent eye stripe; eyes with slightly vertical pupils; countersunk lower jaw; single anal scale.

Juveniles: Similar to adults, but blotches darker.

Dimorphism: None

Similar species: Pituophis melanoleucas: Has keeled scales; eyes with round pupils; divided anal scale. Hypsiglena torquata: Has a triangular flattened head; vertical pupils; white labial scales.

Additional notes: An uncommon species in focal area, although historically this subspecies was widespread. Primarily nocturnal, it is associated with loose soils in valleys and washes suitable for burrowing. Gentle, calm, and easily handled. This appears to be a species currently in great decline. Surveys for suitable habitat should be conducted and sightings of this species should be verified and recorded.

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