Mojave Glossy Snake

Arizona elegans candida


Non-Venomous - considered harmless to humans.

Adults 43–107 cm (17–35 in) average total length (TL)[1]. Some researchers state that the average size for a female is 76–101 cm (30–40 in)[2]. A moderately slender snake with smooth shiny scales in 27 rows or fewer at mid body and the anal plate is not divided. The snout is slightly elongated, and the lower jaw is inset. The pupil of the eye is round but becomes slightly vertical when it is contracted. This subspecies has two preocular scales.

This is a pale, light colored snake and is generally lighter in color than all of the other Glossy Snake forms except for the Desert Glossy Snake taxon:Arizona elegans eburnata. The basic coloration and pattern is composed of an average of 63 gray, olive brown or olive tan body blotches with slightly darker colored anterior and posterior borders, over a grayish tan, sandy tan or tan ground color. The blotches are usually 9 scale rows wide (dorsally)[1], and the spacing between the dorsal blotches is usually greater than the width of the blotch itself. The total number of blotches can vary from 53–73[2]. The venter is a uniform sandy olive buff or light buff in color. There is a mask-like olive brown line that bridges the top of the head from eye to eye and runs from the eye to the angle of the jaw on each side of the head. In many individuals, the lateral scales may contain a spot of darker pigment that is not present in the dorsal scales. This difference in scale coloration can cause the appearance of the presence of a vaguely defined dorsal stripe beneath the dorsal blotches.[3]

In areas where the range of the Mojave Glossy Snake Arizona elegans candida overlaps with that of the Desert Glossy Snake Arizona elegans eburnata, and the California Glossy Snake Arizona elegans occidentalis, distinction between the subspecies can be difficult, especially in areas where two subspecies may frequently mate with one another and produce intermediate forms.

Basically, candida differs from all other Glossy Snakes except eburnata in having dorsal blotches that are narrower than the spaces that separate them. Candida differs from eburnata in having blotches that are on average nine scales wide, and by having two preocular scales. Eburnata has blotches that average only seven scales wide and has only one preocular scale.

Similar Species

Quick ID Notes

Other Common Names

Western Mojave Glossy Snake (Klauber 1946)


Historical occurrence in California in the Antelope Valley and extreme western Mojave Desert including the Mojave desert areas of southwestern Inyo County, southeastern Kern County, northeastern Los Angeles County, and western San Bernardino County. (Klauber)[1] In Nevada in the southern areas of Clark and Nye counties.


Elevation 759–1219 m (2490–4000 ft) (Klauber)[1]. May be found in a variety of habitats including, barren desert, desert scrub, rocky washes, grasslands, and chaparral. Tends to avoid densely treed areas.


This snake is common in its desert habitat. They are excellent burrowers and spend the daylight hours in rodent burrows, under rocks or buried in soft soil, but can be observed after sunset throughout their habitat. They are frequently encountered in spring through early fall crossing lightly traveled desert roads after dark. Peak nocturnal activity occurs in May and June but will this snake be active throughout the warm months of the year. Glossy Snakes are usually very docile when handled and seldom attempt to bite when captured.


Oviparous. Adult females may deposit a clutch of 5–23 eggs, with clutches of 5–12 eggs being most common.[2],[4] Eggs are deposited June-July. Eggs hatch in 68–80 days. Hatchlings measure 24–32 cm (9.5–12.5 in) on average. Klauber reported hatchlings from egg clutches from two different females at 245–275 mm (9.5–10.8 in)[1]


A constrictor. Lizards are preferred prey. Snakes, small rodents and birds are also consumed.

Meaning of Scientific Name

Areo (Latin) to be dry + Zona (Latin) belt of earth, zone. Alternate meaning; Arizonac (American Indian) place of springs, ref. Arizona region.[5]
(Latin) fine or elegant.[5]
(Latin) shining white, bright — ref. to its light color[5]

Conservation Status

No known listings.

Taxonomic Notes

Glossy Snakes from the western U.S. are considered to be short-tailed forms, meaning that in proportion to their overall body length, they have tails shorter than their eastern counterparts. The short-tailed forms include the California Glossy Snake Arizona elegans occidentalis, Arizona Glossy Snake taxon:Arizona elegans noctivaga, Desert Glossy Snake Arizona elegans eburnata, and Mojave Glossy Snake Arizona elegans candida. The eastern long-tailed forms include the Texas Glossy Snake Arizona elegans arenicola, Kansas Glossy Snake Arizona elegans elegans, Chihuahuan Glossy Snake Arizona elegans expolita, and Painted Desert Glossy Snake Arizona elegans philipi.

It has been proposed to split Arizona elegans into two distinct species. The short-tailed western Glossy Snakes would become Arizona occidentalis, and the eastern long-tailed forms would remain Arizona elegans. Currently, NAFHA recognizes all North American Glossy Snake species as Arizona elegans with the exception of the Peninsular Glossy Snake Arizona pacata.


  1. Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press. 1957
  2. Bartlett, R.D. & Tennant, Alan. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co. 2000
  3. Bledsoe, S.W. personal observation
  4. Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003
  5. Beltz, Ellin. Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained,, 2006

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