Western hooknose snake (Gyalopion canum)

Gyalopion canum, commonly known as the Western hooknose snake, is a species of small colubrid snake endemic to the United States and Mexico. It is sometimes referred to as the Chihuahuan hook-nosed snake because it is commonly found in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Taxonomy

It was once classified in the genus Ficimia, but was reclassified due to distinct morphological characteristics.

Geographic range

It is found in the United States, from western Texas to southeastern Arizona, and into northern and central Mexico.

Description

The Western hooknose snake is a small species, growing to 36.5 cm (14 38 in) in total length. They are gray or grayish brown in color, with 25-48 dark brown or black blotches down their back, and a cream-colored underside. They have a slightly upturned snout, which gives them their common name.

The smooth dorsal scales are arranged in 17 rows at midbody.

Behavior

Hooknose snakes are nocturnal burrowers, most often found under rocks.

Habitat

They prefer slightly sandy habitats, near a permanent water source.

Diet

Their diet consists primarily of spiders and centipedes, but they will also eat small snakes and scorpions.

Reproduction

They are oviparous. Sexually mature females may lay up to 5 eggs in June.

Defense

One of its primary defensive behaviors is to make a popping noise with its cloaca, i.e., farting. According to an article in the August, 2000 issue of Discover magazine, during a laboratory experiment carried out by Bruce Young, a morphologist at Lafayette College, the snakes only farted when they felt threatened, and some farted so energetically that they lifted themselves off the ground.

Speed

Gyalopion canum is quick in short bursts or spurts.

 

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.