Glossy Snakes


Glossy Snakes

Genus: Arizona Kennicott 1859

The Glossy Snakes are medium sized snakes with an average adult length of 76-106 cm (30-40 in), smooth polished nonkeeled body scales in 25 to 35 rows, an undivided anal scale and usually double, but occasionally single, preocular scales. The head is slender but distinct from the neck, the lower jaw is inset and the pupil of the eye is round. Like their close relatives, the Bull, Gopher and Pine Snakes of the genus Pituophis, Glossy Snakes are constrictors that will occasionally bite if provoked, but are totally nonvenomous and harmless to humans. Glossy snakes are nocturnal hunters and efficient burrowers that are very rarely seen during daylight hours. They feed primarily on lizards, but will also take small rodents. They are found only in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The Peninsular Glossy Snake, Arizona pacata, is found only on the Baja California peninsula in northwestern Mexico, and there are no recognized subspecies of that race. In the United States, there are seven recognized subspecies of Glossy Snakes, Arizona elegans , found from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas in the east, westward to the southern regions of California. Some of these subspecies are found in northern Mexico as well.

For nearly a century, only one species of Glossy Snake, Arizona elegans, has been recognized in the United States, but currently there is a suggestion that this group of animals be split into two separate species with elegans in the east, and occidentalis in the west. This split is driven as much by the existence of a break in their range as it is to a few morphological differences between the two groups. NAFHA currently recognizes Arizona elegans as the only species of Glossy Snakes in the United States, with seven recognized subspecies. The three eastern US subspecies, the Texas Glossy Snake A. e. arenicola, the Kansas Glossy Snake A. e. elegans and the Painted Desert Glossy Snake A. e. philipi, are sometimes referred to as the long-tailed forms, while the four western subspecies, the Mojave Glossy Snake A. e. candida, the Desert Glossy Snake A. e. eburnata, The Arizona Glossy Snake A. e. noctivaga and the California Glossy Snake A. e. occidentalis, are referred to as the short-tailed forms.

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