Colubrids (Family Colubridae)
Glossy Snake,Arizona elegans (Kennicott, 1859). (Plate 10.25, Map 10.19) 24–28 in (60–95 cm); cream to light gray background with narrow light brown blotches running down back; black flecks around edges of blotches; ventral surface uniform white; scales smooth. Habitat: This nocturnal snake usually occurs in valley floors and sandy washes. In the area, Glossy Snakes have been found only in
and around Creosote Bush Scrub. These active snakes are rarely seen because they do not lie on roads at night, like many other species, but move rapidly across them. Remarks: The subspecies of Glossy Snake present in the area is the Mojave Glossy Snake (A. e. candida ). Other subspecies occur throughout much of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Glossy Snakes resemble juvenile Gopher Snakes (Pituophis catenifer ) but are readily distinguished by their smooth scales and lighter background color and blotches. This species has a flattened head, enabling it to bury in sand or loose soil. Food consists of small rodents, lizards, and reptile eggs. Range: Panamint Valley; foothills of northern Argus and southern Inyo Mountains; southern Owens Valley in the vicinity of Owens Lake; expected in the Saline and Eureka valleys. Reference: Klauber (1946).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 8.1 mi SE of Hwy. 136 on Hwy. 190; 4 mi SE Lone Pine.
Western Shovel-nosed Snake,Chionactis occipitalis(Hallowell, 1854). (Plates 10.26 and 10.27, Map 10.20) 10–16 in (25–40 cm); a small, banded snake; background yellow with brown bands; faint reddish-brown band in middle of each yellow band (absent in snakes from southern Owens Valley); pale ventral color, with brown bands crossing belly in some individuals; snout flattened. Habitat: This species occurs in Creosote Bush Scrub below about 5,000 ft (1,500 m). These generally nocturnal snakes are most common in sandy areas. Remarks: There are two subspecies of Western Shovel-nosed Snake in our area. The Mojave Shovel-nosed Snake (C. o. occipitalis ) is present in the extreme southern Owens Valley around Owens Lake. This subspecies lacks the faint reddish-brown band in the middle of each yellow band. The Nevada Shovel-nosed Snake (C. o. talpina ), which occurs in the Panamint and Saline valleys, has the faint reddish-brown band (see Map 10.20). This snake uses its flattened snout to aid in burying itself in the ground. In areas of loose sand they can crawl beneath the surface of the sand for great distances. In Arizona, where Western Shovel-nosed Snakes occur together with venomous Arizona Coral Snakes (Micruroides euryxanthus ), the Shovel-nosed Snakes have a similar color pattern with red bands. The two species resemble each other, with the harmless Western Shovel-nosed Snake mimicking the venomous Arizona Coral Snake. Range: Vicinity of Owens Lake in the southern Owens Valley (C. o. occipitalis ); Panamint and Saline valleys (C. o. talpina ). References: Elvin (1963), Klauber (1951), Norris and Kavanau (1966).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: Darwin Falls; 6.8 mi W of Darwin Rd. on Hwy. 190; 9.2 mi W; 2,340–3,750 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); Owens Lake (dot on Map 10.20 is the position of an additional site record) (FMNH); 2.1 mi E Panamint Springs; 9.5 mi E of Saline Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190.
Night Snake,Hypsiglena torquata (Günther, 1860). (Plate 10.28, Map 10.21) 12–24 in (30–60 cm); a slender snake with a wide, flattened head; gray background coloration with numerous brown spots running the length of body; a series of paired dorsal spots may be fused or slightly offset, giving a checkered appearance; belly uniform cream; distinct dark brown neck band which extends along side of head to eye, commonly with a projection extending to middle of top of head. Habitat: Night Snakes occur in all habitats below about 7,000 ft (2,130 m). They are most common in rocky places in low- to moderate-elevation desert areas. This is a strictly nocturnal species that is sometimes seen crossing roads at night. They are fairly common on the Westgard Pass road (Hwy. 168) west of Tollhouse Spring and on the Eureka Valley Road between Joshua Flats and the Eureka Valley floor. Remarks: The subspecies of Night Snake present in the region is the Desert Night Snake (H. t. deserticola ). This wide-ranging species occurs from extreme southern British Columbia to southern Mexico and from coastal central California to Texas. These small snakes have enlarged, grooved teeth in the back of the upper jaw. These teeth are used in channeling venom into prey, which usually consists of small lizards. It is unlikely that this small species could envenomate a human, but care should be taken if these snakes
are handled. Range: Throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 7,000 ft (2,130 m). Reference: Tanner (1944).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 4.7 mi NE Big Pine; 5 mi NE; 6.4 mi NE; pass over Inyo Mtns. on Eureka Valley Rd.; 11.3 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; 1,920 m, 19.5 mi SE; 1,840 m, 19.9 mi SE; 24.1 mi SE; 24.9 mi SE; 26.3 mi SE; 27.4 mi SE; 3,630 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); 3 mi W Lone Pine; 15.3 mi SE. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 5,200 ft, 2 mi W of Hwy. 264 along Chiatovich Creek, Fish Lake Valley.
Common Kingsnake,Lampropeltis getula (Linnaeus, 1766). (Plate 10.29, Map 10.22) 30–48 in (75–120 cm); black- and white-banded; black bands cross belly; black bands wider on top than on sides and belly. Habitat: Kingsnakes occur in
all habitats below about 7,500 ft (2,290 m). They are active both during the day and on warm nights. Remarks: The subspecies of Common Kingsnake present in the area is the California Kingsnake (L. g. californiae ). Common Kingsnakes are one of the widest-ranging snakes in the United States. They occur across North America from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. There are a number of subspecies with varying color patterns. Kingsnakes eat a variety of vertebrate animals, including mammals, small birds, and reptiles. They are well known for eating other snakes, even rattlesnakes. They are generally not affected by the venom and will continue eating a rattlesnake even if bitten. It has been shown that rattlesnakes sense the odor of kingsnakes and attempt to avoid them. The only similar-looking species in the area is the Western Long-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei ). In the black- and white-banded color phase of this species, the black bands do not encircle the belly. In this region, Common Kingsnakes are relatively rare in Creosote Bush Scrub areas. They appear to be more common in Great Basin Scrub areas, especially in the vicinity of springs and streams. Range: Throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 7,500 ft (2,290 m). Reference: Carpenter and Gillingham (1975).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: Beveridge Canyon, Saline Valley (FMNH); Big Pine; 6,300 ft, 7 mi NE; 7.8 mi NE; 1,800 m, 8.2 mi NE; 9.0 mi NE; 22.0 mi NE; 2 mi E Bishop; 6,600–6,800 ft, Big Horn Mine, Hunter Canyon, Saline Valley (USNM); 0.3 mi E Darwin Wash Rd. on Hwy. 190; 27.7 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; Laws; Lone Pine; 5.9 mi S of Mono County line on Hwy. 6; 4.6 mi E Hwy. 6 on Silver Creek Canyon Rd.; White Mtns. Mono Co.: 1.0 mi W Benton; 18.9 mi N of Inyo County line on Hwy. 6. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 1,640 m, Chiatovich Creek, Fish Lake Valley; Fish Lake (LACM); 0.5 mi S.
Coachwhip,Masticophis flagellum(Shaw, 1802). (Plate 10.30, Map 10.23) 36–84 in (90–210 cm); a long, slender snake with large eyes; dorsal background red or reddish brown; indistinct narrow tan or cream crossbands on front half of body; between two and six distinct dark brown or black crossbands on neck; ventral surface pale with small black spots on chin and throat; juveniles are banded or blotched, usually less red than adults, with dark neck bands less distinct. Habitat: Coachwhips are diurnal snakes that occur in all habitats up to about 6,500 ft (1,980 m) in the lower Pinyon-juniper Woodland. They are relatively common in desert canyons where riparian vegetation is present. Remarks: The subspecies of Coachwhip present in the area is the Red Coachwhip (M. f. piceus ). The seven subspecies of this wide-ranging snake occur from coastal southern California across the southern half of the country to the Carolinas and Florida, and south in Mexico to the states of Veracruz, Sinoloa, and the tip of Baja California. Other subspecies are variable in color pattern and may not look like individuals from the White-Inyo mountains region. Coachwhips eat a variety of food, including lizards, snakes, birds, mammals, and even insects. This is the fastest-moving snake in the region. In the open, it will flee if approached and usually disappear into a clump of vegetation or down a rodent burrow. This evil-tempered species always tries to bite when picked up. Although it is not poisonous, the tiny,
razor-sharp teeth will draw blood. Range: Entire White-Inyo mountains region below about 6,500 ft (1,980 m). References: Ortenburger (1928), Wilson (1970).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 1.5 mi SW Batchelder Spring, Westgard Pass; near Big Horn Mine, Hunter Canyon, Inyo Mtns. (USNM); 5,500 ft, 6 mi E Big Pine; 19.9 mi NE; 31 mi S Bishop; Charcoal Kilns off Hwy. 395, N Independence (LACM); W end Deep Springs Valley (LACM); 5,000 ft, 4.9 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; 7.3 mi SE; 26.9 mi SE; 9.8 mi E of Hwy. 136 on Hwy. 190; 2 mi N Independence; 4 mi N (SDSNH); Keeler (USNM); 9 mi SE (SDSNH); Keough Hot Springs, 7 mi S Bishop (SDSNH); Laws; Lee Flat, 3.3 mi S of summit on Saline Valley Rd. (CAS); 2 mi SE Lone Pine; 1,200 ft, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Saline Valley (CAS); 6,000 ft, Silver Creek Canyon, White Mtns. Mono Co.: Oasis (BYU, MVZ).
Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 1.7 mi E California state line on Hwy. 264 (LACM); 4.9 mi E; 1 mi W of Hwy. 264 on Chiatovich Creek, Fish Lake Valley; 2 mi S Chiatovich Creek on Hwy. 264, Fish Lake Valley; 4.8 mi S Dyer (LACM); Fish Lake; 1 mi SW. Mineral Co.: 8.1 mi N of Hwy. 6 on Hwy. 360.
Striped Whipsnake,Masticophis taeniatus(Hallowell, 1852). (Plate 10.31, Map 10.24) 30–60 in (75–150 cm); a slender snake with a narrow neck, wide head, and large eyes; dorsal background coloration brown, commonly with a bluish cast; white lateral stripe on each side divided in half by a narrow black line; two additional narrow black stripes on lower part of each side; midventral coloration yellow, becoming pale toward neck and pink toward tail; small black spots on chin and throat; black spot on the side of each ventral scale. Habitat: In this area, Striped Whipsnakes occur from mid-elevation Great Basin Scrub, above 5,000 ft (1,520 m), to at least 8,400 ft (2,560 m) in the Pinyon-juniper Woodland of the White Mountains. The species has been recorded at 9,400 ft (2,870 m) in the Panamint Mountains. This active, diurnal form is very alert and will flee when approached. Remarks: The subspecies of Striped Whipsnake present in the region is the Desert Striped Whipsnake (M. t. taeniatus ). The species ranges from eastern Washington south throughout the Great Basin and east into central Texas. It occurs in Mexico at least as far south as the state of Michoacán. A detailed study of Striped Whipsnakes was conducted between 1969 and 1973 in northern Utah, at a site where the snakes hibernate in communal dens. A total of 242 whipsnakes were marked and studied. It was found that young snakes ate only lizards, but adult snakes ate both lizards and small mammals. During the summer, individual snakes commonly moved 400–500 ft (122–152 m) in a day, and one snake traveled more than a mile (1.6 km) from the den. Range: Entire White-Inyo mountains region, between about 5,000 ft (1,520 m) and 9,000 ft (2,740 m) elevation. References: Bennion and Parker (1976), Ortenburger (1928), Parker and Brown (1980).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 6,620 ft, 9.8 mi NE Big Pine; Dead Horse Meadow, Crooked Creek, White Mtns. (LACM); 6,600 ft, 10 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd. (LACM); 6,750 ft, 10.7 mi SE (LACM); 5,400 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range [Willow Creek] (USNM); Inyo Lodge Camp, Inyo Mtns. (LACM); 1.2 mi S Mono County line on Hwy. 168, White Mtns.; 15.5 mi NE of Hwy. 190 on Saline Valley Rd., Nelson Range (LACM); 3.1 mi N of Hwy. 168 on White Mtn. Rd. (LACM); 8,400 ft, 6.0 mi N. Mono Co.: Benton; 5,200 ft, 2 mi S. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 12 mi E Oasis, Silver Peak Range (KU).
Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake,Phyllorhynchus decurtatus(Cope, 1868). (Plate 10.32, Map 10.25) 12–20 in (30–50 cm); light reddish brown to gray dorsal background coloration with brown blotches running down back; uniform white ventral coloration; black stripe through each eye; enlarged, leaf-shaped rostral scale at tip of nose. Habitat: In the White-Inyo mountains region Spotted Leaf-nosed Snakes occur in Creosote Bush Scrub below about 3,000 ft (910 m). They are most common in sandy or gravelly areas. This strictly nocturnal species is commonly seen crossing roads on warm nights in the late spring and early summer. Remarks: The subspecies
of Spotted Leaf-nosed Snake present in the region is the Western Leaf-nosed Snake (P. d. perkinsi ). Until 1922, only six specimens were known to science, and it was considered one of the rarest North American snakes. At about this time, biologists discovered that nocturnal snakes could easily be collected by driving on paved roads at night. It was soon learned that Spotted Leaf-nosed Snakes were one of the most abundant snakes in the southern California deserts. The diet of this species is very specialized. Occasionally small lizards are eaten, but the majority of food taken consists of the eggs of other reptiles. The enlarged scale on the snout of this snake aids in digging in the sand in search of eggs. Range: Recorded only from the Panamint Valley. Suitable habitat is present in the extreme southern Owens Valley, Saline Valley, and Eureka Valley, but no specimens are recorded. References: Brattstrom (1953), Klauber (1935).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: Darwin Falls; 3.9 mi W of Darwin Rd. on Hwy. 190; 0.5 mi E Panamint Springs; 1 mi NW; 1.3 mi E; 1.5 mi E; 1.7 mi E; 4.7 mi E; 5.7 mi E; 2.6 mi W of Panamint Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190; 4.3 mi W.
Gopher Snake,Pituophis catenifer (Blainville, 1835). (Plate 10.33, Map 10.26) 30–60 in (75–150 cm); large, blotched snake with distinctly keeled scales; dorsal coloration gray to tan; large black to brown blotches running down back; blotches often fused in neck region. Habitat: Gopher Snakes occur in all habitats below about 8,000 ft (2,440 m). They are active during the day and on warm nights, and they are commonly seen resting on paved roads during the late afternoon and at night. Remarks: The subspecies of Gopher Snake present in the area is the Great Basin Gopher Snake (P. c. deserticola ). Other subspecies of this wide-ranging snake occur from the Pacific coast to the Great Plains and from Canada to Mexico. In the past, many of these subspecies were recognized as distinct species. Some of the forms in the United States look very different from each other, and future studies may determine that they are, in fact, distinct species. This large, heavy-bodied snake feeds primarily on rodents, which are first killed by construction. The Gopher Snake is occasionally mistaken for a rattlesnake because it sometimes coils its body and vibrates its tail, making a rattling sound in dry leaves. Young Gopher Snakes are similar in color pattern to Glossy Snakes (Arizona elegans ). The former has keeled scales, and the latter has smooth scales. Range: Throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 8,000 ft (2,440 m). References: Klauber (1947), Parker and Brown (1980).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 4,000 ft, 1 mi E Big Pine; 5.1 mi NE; 6.0 mi NE; 8.2 mi NE; 8.6 mi NE; 10.3 mi NE; 11.9 mi NE; 15.4 mi NE; 21.9 mi NE; 22.8 mi NE; 24.5 mi NE; 27.2 mi NE; 3.5 mi ESE Bishop; Hwy. 190 between Darwin Wash Rd. and 4,000 ft Vista Lookout; 6.9 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; 5,750 ft, 7.4 mi SE; 8.4 mi SE; 7,150 ft, 16.1 mi SE; 20.3 mi SE; 22.7 mi SE; 35.1 mi SE; 35.4 mi SE; French Spring, Inyo Mtns.; 5,750 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); 13 mi N Independence (LACM); Jackass Spring, 20 mi N Darwin, Panamint Mtns. (USNM); Lone Pine (CAS, USNM); 4.6 mi N; 3.1 mi S Mono County line on Hwy. 168; 6.8 mi S Mono County line on Hwy. 6; Westgard Pass (BYU); 6,000 ft; Wyman Canyon, 2 mi W Deep Springs Valley, White Mtns. Mono Co.: Benton; 5 mi N (SDSNH, UMMZ); 6 mi S (SDSNH); N end Fish Slough, 19 mi N Bishop (UCSB); 4.4 mi N Inyo County line on Hwy. 6; 10.9 mi N; 11.9 mi N; Silver Canyon, 4.5 mi E Laws; 18.6 mi N; 3.2 mi SW Nevada state line on Hwy. 6; 4.8 mi SW; Nevada state line on Hwy. 266, N Oasis. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 1 mi W of Hwy. 264 along Chiatovich Creek, Fish Lake Valley; 1 mi S Chiatovich Creek on Hwy. 264, Fish Lake Valley; 0.3 mi N Dyer; Fish Lake; jct. Hwy. 6 and Hwy. 264; 11.3 mi E Mineral County line on Hwy. 6; 5.1 mi N California state line on Hwy. 264. Mineral Co.: 1.6 mi E Montgomery Pass on Hwy 6; 2.4 mi NE California state line on Hwy. 6; 4.6 mi NE.
Long-nosed Snake,Rhinocheilus lecontei (Baird & Girard, 1853). (Plate 10.34, Map 10.27) 20–40 in (50–100 cm); a speckled snake with distinct black saddles across back and sides; white flecks on the sides of each saddle; in most individuals the area
between the saddles is white with red and black speckles; in some specimens the area between the saddles is uniform white; belly pale, some with black blotches; snout pointed. Habitat: Long-nosed Snakes occur throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below about 6,000 ft (1,830 m). They are most common in sandy Creosote Bush Scrub and Great Basin Scrub areas. This species is almost exclusively nocturnal and is usually seen crossing roads at night during the spring and summer. It is a fast-moving snake that rarely rests on the pavement as Gopher Snakes (Pituophis catenifer ) and rattlesnakes (Crotalus ) do. Remarks: The subspecies of Long-nosed Snake in the area is the Western Long-nosed Snake (R. l. lecontei ). At one time the black and white color phase was recognized as a distinct subspecies (R. l. clarus ). Owing, in part, to reports of both color phases being hatched from a single clutch of eggs, this taxonomic
distinction has been dropped for the present. However, more research is needed on the clarus phase. In some areas, such as parts of the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, California, all Long-nosed Snakes lack red speckles. The clarus phase may be distinguished from the similarly colored Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula ) by the pointed snout and the absence of black bands connecting across the belly. Long-nosed Snakes feed on lizards and lizard eggs, small snakes, small mammals, and occasionally birds. Range: Throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 6,000 ft (1,830 m). References: Klauber (1941), Shannon and Humphrey (1963).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 0.6 mi E Aberdeen; 1.3 mi S; Bartlett (SDSNH); 12 mi N Big Pine (LACM); 20.1 mi NE on Hwy. 168; 30.7 mi NE; 10 mi S Bishop; 5.7 mi N of Eureka Valley Rd. on North Eureka Valley Rd.; 26.9 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; 3,850 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); Independence; 1.4 mi W; 2 mi SE Lone Pine (SDSNH); 16.6 mi SE; 38 mi E; 1.3 mi W of Saline Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190; 0.8 mi E.
Western Patch-nosed Snake,Salvadora hexalepis(Cope, 1866). (Plate 10.35, Map 10.28) 24–36 in (60–90 cm); gray to light brown dorsal coloration with two narrow, broken stripes running down back; ventral coloration uniform cream; enlarged scale on tip of snout (rostral scale). Habitat: This snake occurs throughout the entire White-Inyo mountains region up to about 6,500 ft (1,980 m). It is most common in sandy valley floors. This is a fast-moving diurnal species. Patch-nosed snakes are sometimes seen in the late afternoon basking on roads. Remarks: The subspecies of Western Patch-nosed Snake in the area is the Mojave Patch-nosed Snake (S. h. mojavensis ). This genus contains eight species that range from northern Nevada to Guatemala. They occur in arid and semi-arid regions. The Western Patch-nosed Snake ranges the farthest north of any species, occurring from northern Nevada into central western Mexico, and from coastal southern California to western Texas. This wary, alert snake will attempt to escape when approached. In this area, it is more common in Great Basin Scrub habitats than in Creosote Bush Scrub habitats. Patch-nosed Snakes feed mainly on lizards and reptile eggs. Range: Throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 6,500 ft (1,980 m). Reference: Bogert (1939).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: Antelope Spring, Deep Springs Valley (LACM); 5,000 ft, 5 mi E Big Pine; 6,000 ft, 6 mi NE; 6,400 ft, 7 mi NE; 20.4 mi NE; 2 mi NE Deep Springs (LACM); 8.1 mi SW (LACM); 1 mi NE of Eureka Valley Rd. on Hwy. 168 (CMNH); 4,480 ft, 5,100 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); 5.0 mi NE Independence; 11.0 mi N; Keough Hot Springs, 7 mi S Bishop (LACM); 2.8 mi W Lone Pine (LACM); 9 mi W Panamint Springs on Hwy. 190; 6,000 ft, 3.1 mi S of summit on Saline Valley Rd. (CAS). Mono Co.: 4.4 mi S of Hwy. 120 at Benton on Hwy. 6. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 10 mi E Basalt (UMMZ); 4.0 mi E California state line on Hwy. 266; 0.5 mi E Mineral County line on Hwy. 6.
Ground Snake,Sonora semiannulata(Baird & Girard, 1853). (Plate 10.36, Map 10.29) 10–16 in (25–40 cm); black- and orange-banded; width of bands about equal; bands not sharply defined and not continuous ventrally except on tail. Habitat: The few specimens recorded from the region have been found in mountainous areas in
both Creosote Bush Scrub and Great Basin Desert Scrub below 6,000 ft (1,830 m). Ground Snakes may occasionally be found under rocks near streams but are most commonly encountered on roads at dusk. Remarks: Ground Snakes range from Texas to California and from Idaho to the tip of Baja California and northeastern Mexico. They may be locally abundant but are seldom seen throughout most of their range. In some places striped or uniformly colored populations exist. In the past, some of these populations were regarded as separate species, but currently only a single species is recognized. Ground Snakes prey on spiders and other invertebrates. The only other snake in the region likely to be confused with this species is the Western Shovel-nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis ), which has a flattened snout and yellow rather than orange bands. There is also usually a faint brown saddle in each yellow band, in
the latter species. Range: Presumed to occur throughout the White-Inyo mountains region below 6,500 ft (1,980 m). May be absent from valley floors. Reference: Frost (1983).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 7 mi NE Big Pine; 7.7 mi NE; 4,000–5,000 ft, Darwin Vicinity on Hwy. 190; E end Deep Springs Valley (SDSNH); 27.3 mi SE of Hwy. 168 on Eureka Valley Rd.; 27.7 mi SE; 38.7 mi SE; 4,500 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); 6.8 mi E of Saline Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190.
Southwestern Black-headed Snake,Tantilla hobartsmithi(Taylor, 1936). (Plate 10.37, Map 10.30) 8–14 in (20–35 cm); small, thin brown snake with a black head; ventral color red. Habitat: In the White-Inyo mountains region, Black-headed Snakes have been found in rocky, mountainous places below 6,500 ft (1,980 m). These snakes occur both in Creosote Bush Scrub and Great Basin Scrub and into the Pinyon-juniper Woodland. They are most common around springs and streams. This is a nocturnal species that can occasionally be found by turning rocks. Remarks: This secretive, small snake is seldom observed. There are only four museum specimens from the White-Inyo mountains region. The northernmost known record for the species is on the Westgard Pass road (see Map 10.30), but it is probable that they occur farther north in suitable habitat. Black-headed Snakes have a very specialized diet, feeding almost exclusively on centipedes. Although they are not considered dangerous to humans, this species has enlarged rear fangs and venom to aid in killing prey. Outside of our area, the range of the Southwestern Black-headed Snake extends southeast into Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. Range: Northern Argus Mountains, Nelson Range above the Saline Valley, western slopes of the Inyo Mountains; may occur further north (see ? on Map 10.30). Reference: Cole and Hardy (1981).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 5,550 ft, 7.2 mi NE Big Pine; 8.5 mi NE; 4,020–4,030 ft, Grapevine Canyon, Nelson Range (CAS); Hogback Creek, 6 mi S Olancha (S of area); 3.4 mi E of Saline Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190.
Sierra Garter Snake,Thamnophis couchii (Kennicott, 1859). (Plate 10.38, Map 10.31) 24–42 in (60–105 cm); dorsal background color olive-brown with black spots arranged in four rows running down the body; pale chin; ventral surface light to dark brown, commonly with black line at posterior margin of each ventral scale; long, narrow, triangular head with black neck collar. Habitat: This highly aquatic snake is restricted to the vicinity of marshes, streams, and rivers. It is a wary diurnal species that readily enters the water if disturbed while basking. Once in the water, these snakes usually hide under rocks at the bottoms of pools. Remarks: This was formerly regarded as one wide-ranging species with six subspecies in California and western Nevada. It has now been split up into four species. In the western Sierra Nevada this snake has a typical striped garter snake pattern, but in our area it is spotted with no stripes. The snakes from the Owens Valley have not been studied yet and may actually represent a fifth species in this group. A second species of garter snake, the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (T. elegans ) is also found here. Where the two species coexist
in the Owens Valley, the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake has a middorsal stripe (see following account). Sierra Garter Snakes feed primarily on fish and frogs. Like other garter snakes, this species is live-bearing, and the young are born at a size of about 6 in (10 cm) in the late summer. Range: Owens Valley from Bishop to Lone Pine and streams draining the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. References: Fitch (1940b), Fitch (1941), Rossman and Stewart (1987).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: Owens River just above Aberdeen (UMMZ); 4,000 ft, Alvord, Owens Valley (USNM); Bishop; 4,200 ft, 2 mi W; 4, 100 ft, Laws; Lone Pine (USNM); Tinemaha Creek, 0.5 mi NW of Hwy. 395, 7 mi S Big Pine (LACM). Mono Co.: Fish Slough, 10 mi N Bishop (USNM).
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake,Thamnophis elegans(Baird & Girard, 1853). (Plate 10.39, Map 10.32) 18–36 in (45–90 cm); dorsal background light to dark brown with black spots forming irregular bands; in Owens Valley individuals, a middorsal yellow stripe is present; ventral surface light brown with irregular black patches, which sometimes completely cover the belly; black neck band may extend to top of head. Habitat: This species usually occurs in the vicinity of permanent water but may wander some distance. It frequents mountain streams, rivers, ponds, marshes, and lakes. These snakes are mainly diurnal but are occasionally active at night during the summer. Remarks: This variable species occurs throughout much of the western United States. In the northern portion of the White-Inyo mountains region, the Wandering Garter Snake (T. e. vagrans ) is present; this subspecies has no middorsal stripe. In the Owens Valley, intergrades between this subspecies and the Mountain Garter Snake (T. e. elegans ) occur (see Map 10.32); these intergrades have a middorsal stripe. The stripe will distinguish this species from the Sierra Garter Snake (T. couchii ), which also occurs in the Owens Valley. In addition to fish and frogs, Terrestrial Garter Snakes feed on lizards, mice, and even nestling birds. Young are born in the late summer. Range: Entire length of Owens Valley (T. e. eleganśvagrans ); Fish Lake Valley, streams on the eastern and southern slopes of the White Mountains to at least 8,200 ft (2,500 m), (T. elegans vagrans ). References: Fitch (1941), Fox (1951), White and Kolb (1974).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 4,000 ft, 5 mi NW Big Pine; 5.4 mi S (UMMZ); 4,200 ft, 2 mi W Bishop; Lone Pine (USNM); Roberts Ranch, Wyman Canyon, White Mtns. Nevada, Esmeralda Co.: 8,200 ft, Chiatovich Creek, White Mtns; Fish Lake.
Lyre Snake,Trimorphodon biscutatus (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854). (Plate 10.40, Map 10.33) 24–36 in (60–90 cm); gray dorsal coloration with brown blotches running down back; gray saddle within each brown blotch; white ventral coloration with small brown blotches fringing belly; head wide and flattened with blunt nose; brown V-shaped stripe behind eyes. Habitat: This nocturnal species occurs in rocky Creosote Bush Scrub areas below 5,000 ft (1,520 m). Lyre Snakes are uncommon but can occasionally be observed crossing roads at night. Remarks: The subspecies of Lyre Snake in this area is the California Lyre Snake (T. b. vandenburghi ). The Lyre Snake is a wide-ranging desert and tropical species occurring from Inyo County, California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah to Costa Rica, and from coastal southern California to western Texas. In the past, Lyre Snakes were classified as six distinct species, but recent work suggests that they represent a single, geographically variable species. In tropical Mexico, Lyre Snakes may reach a length of over 5 ft (1.5 m). This is a mildly venomous snake that has enlarged rear fangs. The venom is used to kill small lizards and perhaps small rodents. Lyre Snakes are not considered dangerous to humans but should be handled with caution. Range: In our area, known only from the Panamint Valley below 5,000 ft (1,520 m). Suitable
habitat is present in the Saline, Eureka, and southern Owens valleys, but no specimens have been recorded (see ? on Map 10.33). References: Cowles and Bogert (1953), Gehlbach (1971), Klauber (1940a).
Localities: California, Inyo Co.: 1 mi W of Darwin Falls Rd. on Hwy. 190; 3 mi W; 3.2 mi W; 4.6 mi W; Hwy. 190, between Darwin Wash Rd. and 4,000 ft Vista Point; 4.7 mi W Panamint Springs (CAS); 3.5 mi E of Saline Valley Rd. on Hwy. 190 (LACM).