Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)

Arizona elegans is a species of medium-sized colubrid snake commonly referred to as the glossy snake or the faded snake, which is endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico. The genus Arizona has only one officially recognized species, A. elegans, with several subspecies. Some have recommended that A. elegans occidentalis be granted full species status.

Description

The glossy snake and its many subspecies are all similar in appearance to gopher snakes. However, they are smaller than gopher snakes, with narrow, pointed heads, and a variety of skin patterns and colors. They appear “washed-out” or pale, hence the common name, “faded snakes”.

Most subspecies are ca. 75–130 cm (ca. 30-50 inches) in total length. The maximum recorded total length for the species is 142 cm (56 in).

They are shades of tan, brown, and gray with spotted patterns on their smooth, glossy skin, and a white or cream-colored unmarked ventral surface. Coloration often varies in relation to the color of the soil in a snake’s native habitat.

Habitat

Habitat is normally semi-arid grasslands of the southwestern United States, from California in the west to Kansas in the east and as far south as Texas, and northern Mexico.

Behavior and diet

They are nonvenomous, nocturnal predators of small lizards.

Reproduction

Glossy snakes are oviparous. Adults breed in the late spring and early summer. Clutches average from 10 to 20 eggs. The eggs hatch in early summers and the newly hatched young are approximately 25 cm (9.8 in) in total length.

 

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Photograph is available under a Creative Commons License from Natalie McNear.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.