Overview

Brief Summary

Coastal or northern rubber boa (Charina bottae)

The coastal rubber boa (Charina bottae) is a primitive snake in the boa family (Boidae) and has retained the club-like tail of its Erycine ancestors. The name Charina is from the Greek for graceful or delightful, and the name bottae honors Dr. Paolo E. Botta, an Italian ship's surgeon, explorer and naturalist.

The adult boa is 15-33 in (840 mm) long; newborns are typically 7.5-9 in (230 mm) long. The skin is often loose and wrinkled and consists of small, smooth. shiny scales, giving the snake a rubber-like look and texture. Colours are typically tan to dark brown with a lighter ventral surface but may be olive-green, yellow or orange. Newborns often appear pink and slightly transparent but darken with age. The boa has small eyes with vertically elliptical pupils and a short, blunt head, no wider than the body. The short, blunt tail closely resembles the shape of the head.

The rubber boa is the most northerly boa. It is native to much of the western USA, from the Pacific Coast east to western Utah and Montana, south to the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles in California and north to southern British Columbia with an established population around Radium Hot Springs [3]. Distribution is most spotty at the southern and eastern fringes of the range.It occurs from near sea level to @ 3,050 m (10,000 ft) (4,5). There have been rare sightings in Colorado and Alberta. The boa inhabits various habitat types from grassland, grassy savannas, meadows and patchy chaparral to deciduous and conifer forests and woodlands, forest clearings and high alpine settings. It usually lives near water, but also lives in riparian zones in arid canyons and sagebrush in some areas (5,8-10). Generally this snake is found in or under rotting logs or stumps, under rocks or in crevices, or under leaf litter, the bark of dead fallen trees or in burrows. It is less tolerant of higher temperatures than other snake species and cannot inhabit areas that are too hot and dry. It can live in areas that are quite cold, but prefers areas that provide adequate warmth, moisture and prey. It is thought to maintain a relatively small home range as many individuals are often captured in the same area year after year, but individuals may occasionally migrate due to competition lack of prey, or other pressures. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Rubber boas are considered one of the most docile of the boa species and are often used to help people overcome their fear of snakes [1] . They never strike at or bite a human, but release a potent musk from their vent if they feel threatened. They are primarily nocturnal and probably crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). Due to the temperature of the habitat, they hibernate during winter months in underground dens. They are very adaptable snake, being good climbers, burrowers and swimmers.Activity occurs mostly at night or dusk but also commonly occurs in daytime during mild cloudy weather. Most activity occurs from March to November.

The boas feed on young voles, mice, etc. When they encounter nestling mammals, they try to consume the entire litter if possible and fend off the mother with their tail, which often has extensive scarring. They also prey on snakes and lizards and their eggs and young and small birds and bats. They generally kills their prey by constriction prior to ingestion. Their predators are varied. Threatened boas curl into a ball, bury their head inside and expose their tail to mimic their head. This is thought to be a primary defense technique against predators, it is doubtful that this behavior is effective against large predators, such as raptors, coyotes, raccoons and cats. The best defence of rubber boas is their secretive nature.

Rubber boas are ovoviviparous and can have 2-8 young a year, but many females only reproduce every 4 years. Mating occurs soon after reemergence from hibernation in spring and young are born from August-November that year [2]. The boa lives up to 26.5 years in captivity.

The total adult population size probably exceeds 10,000 and perhaps 100,000. This snake is secretive, but under appropriate temperature and moisture conditions it is locally quite common (8,9). It seems to be secure, due to its widespread occurrence in many areas that still provide suitable habitat. It is moderately vulnerable, but is not threatened in most of its range. Its Red List Category is Least Concern, due to the wide range, presumed large population and as it is unlikely to be declining fast enough for listing in a more threatened category. Its Global Short Term Trend is relatively stable due to the extent of occurrence, area of occupnacy, number of subpopulations and population size. The populations in southern California may be declining. Many populations are appropriately protected and managed in national and state parks and other protected areas.

Collins (13) did not recognize any subspecies. Stebbins (15) recognized 3 subspecies (bottae, utahensis, and umbratica). Stewart (4) recognized two subspecies (bottae and umbratica), with populations from Mt. Pinos and the Tehachapi Mountains, California, as intergrades between these subspecies. The southern rubber boa is sometimes classified as a subspecies (Charina bottae umbratica) (5). Nussbaum and Hoyer (12) showed that the subspecies utahensis is indistiguishable from subspecies bottae and regarded the concept "umbratica" as meaningless. Other scientists classify it as a separate species (Charina umbratica) from a few disjunct areas in the mountains of southern California (6,7,14,16,17). Rodriguez-Robles et al. (6) used mtDNA data to conclude that "umbratica is a genetically cohesive, allopatric taxon that is morphologically diagnosable" and "is an independent evolutionary unit that should be recognized as a distinct species, Charina umbratica." They acknowledged that a mixture of bottae and umbratica traits exists in populations in the Tehachapi Mountains and Mount Pinos, but interpreted this as persistent ancestral polymorphisms. They found no support to recognize utahensis as a valid taxon. The southern rubber boa is reportedly declining due to habitat loss and degradation (resort development, smog, logging, wood gathering) (11).
  • 1. "All About The Rubber Boa Charina bottae, Natural History (and other info) of the Rubber Boa". All About The Rubber Boa Charina bottae. October 8, 2009.
  • 2. "California Reptiles and Amphibians, Northern Rubber Boa". California Reptiles & Amphibians. February 23, 2009.
  • 3. "Radium Hot Springs’ Remarkable Rubber Boa: A Species of Special Concern". Parks Canada Agency. October 4, 2004.
  • 4. Stewart, G.R. (1977). Charina, C. bottae. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles 205: 1-2.
  • 5. Stebbins, R.C. (2003). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 6. Rodrigues-Robles, J. A., et al (2001). Mitochondrial DNA based phylogeography of North American rubber boas, Charina bottae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 18(2) 227–37.
  • 7. Crother, B., et al. (2008). Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence In Our Understanding. St. Louis: Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
  • 8. Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie Jr. and R.M. Storm (1983). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho. 332 pp.
  • 9. Brown, H.A., R.B. Bury, R.B. D.M. Darda, L.V. Diller, C.R. Peterson and R.M. Storm (1995). Reptiles of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. viii + 176pp.
  • 10. St. John, A. (2002). Reptiles of the Northwest. Lone Pine Publishing, Renton, Washington.
  • 11. California Department of Fish and Game (CDF&G). 1990. 1989 annual report on the status of California's state listed threatened and endangered plants and animals. California Department of Fish and Game.
  • 12. Nussbaum, R. and R. F. Hoyer. 1974. Geographic variation and the validity of subspecies in the rubber boa, Charina bottae. Northwest Science. 48:219-229.
  • 13. Collins, J. T. (1990). Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
  • 14. Erwin,C.B. (1974). Taxonomic status of the southern rubber boa, Charina bottae umbratica. Copeia 1974: 996-997
  • 15. Stebbins, R.C. (1985). A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
  • Company.
  • 16. Crother, B.I., J. Boundy, J.A. Campbell, K. de Quieroz, D. Frost, D.M. Green, R. Highton, J.B. Iverson, R.W. McDiarmid, P.A. Meylan, T.W. Reeder, M.E. Seidel, J.W. Sites Jr, S.G. Tilley, S.G. and D.B. Wake (2003). Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico: update. Herpetological Review 34: 196-203.
  • 17. •Collins, J. T., and T. W. Taggart (2009). Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians, turtles, reptiles, and crocodilians. Sixth edition. The Center for North American Herpetology, Lawrance, Kansas. iv + 44 pp.
  • Other References
  • Hoyer, R. F. 1974. Description of a rubber boa (Chrina bottae) population from western Oregon. Herpetologica. 30:275-283.
  • Hoyer, R. F. and G. R. Stewart. 2000. Biology of the rubber boa (Charina bottae), with emphasis on C. b. umbratica. Part I: Capture, size, sexual dimorphism, and reproduction. Journal of Herpetology. 34:248-354.
  • Hoyer, R. F. and G. R. Stewart. 2000. Biology of the rubber boa (Chrina bottae), with emphasis on C. b. umbratica. Part II: Diet, antagonists, and predators. Journal of Herpetology. 34:354-360.
  • Hoyer, R. All About the Rubber Boa. 2011.
  • Klauber, L. M. 1943. The subspecies of the rubber boa, Charina. Trans. San Diego Soc. Natur. Hist. 10:83-90.
  • Stebbins, R. C. 1955. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 2nd ed. Houghton, Mifflin, Boston.
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) The range extends from southern British Columbia south to west-central California, central Nevada, and southern Utah, from the Pacific coast east to north-central Wyoming and western Montana, from near sea level to about 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) (Stewart 1977, Stebbins 2003). Distribution is spotty in many areas, particularly at the southern and eastern fringes of the range. Disjunct Charina populations in the mountains of southern California are now recognized as a distinct species, C. umbratica (Rodriguez-Robles et al. 2001, Crother 2008).

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Range Description

This species occurs in the west of the United States and in southwestern Canada. Its range extends from southern British Columbia south to west-central California, montane southern California (San Bernardino Mountains, San Jacinto Mountains, Tehachapi Mountains, Mt. Pinos, Mt. Abel), central Nevada and southern Utah, from the Pacific coast east to north-central Wyoming and western Montana, from near sea level to about 3,050 m (10,000 feet) (Stewart 1977, Stebbins 2003). Its distribution is spotty in many areas, particularly at the southern and eastern fringes of the range. Disjunct populations in the mountains of southern California have been proposed as a distinct species, C. umbratica (Rodriguez-Robles et al. 2001).
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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, W Montana, Nevada, N Utah, W Wyoming),  Canada (S British Columbia)  
Type locality: California; restricted to Coast Range, opposite Menterey by SCHMIDT (1953)
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 84 cm

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Type Information

Holotype for Charina bottae
Catalog Number: USNM 15524
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Point Reyes, Marin, California, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Cope, E. D. 1888. Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus. 11 (689): 88, plate 36, figure 2a-f.
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Holotype for Charina bottae
Catalog Number: USNM 7299
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1841
Locality: Puget Sound, Locality In Multiple Counties, Washington, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Baird, S. F. & Girard, C. 1852. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 6: 176.
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Holotype for Charina bottae
Catalog Number: USNM 4492
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1841
Locality: Puget Sound, Locality In Multiple Counties, Washington, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Baird, S. F. & Girard, C. 1852. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 6: 176.
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Ecology

Habitat

Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands Habitat

This taxon can be found in the Montana valley and foothill grasslands ecoregions, along with some other North American ecoregions. This ecoregion occupies high valleys and foothill regions in the central Rocky Mountains of Montana in the USA and Alberta, Canada. The ecoregion the uppermost flatland reaches of the Missouri River drainage involving part of the Yellowstone River basin, and extends into the Clark Fork-Bitterroot drainage of the Columbia River system. The ecoregion, consisting of three chief disjunctive units, also extends marginally into a small portion of northern Wyoming. Having moderate vertebrate species richness, 321 different vertebrate taxa have been recorded here.

The dominant vegetation type of this ecoregion consists chiefly of wheatgrass (Agropyron spp.) and fescue (Festuca spp.). Certain valleys, notably the upper Madison, Ruby, and Red Rock drainages of southwestern Montana, are distinguished by extensive sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities as well. This is a reflection of semi-arid conditions caused by pronounced rain shadow effects and high elevation. Thus, near the Continental Divide in southwestern Montana, the ecoregion closely resembles the nearby Snake/Columbia shrub steppe.

A number of mammalian species are found in the ecoregion, including: American Pika (Ochotona princeps), a herbivore preferring talus habitat; Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis), Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), who live in underground towns that may occupy vast areas; Brown Bear (Ursos arctos); Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata), a species who selects treeless meadows and talus as habitat; and the Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis), a species that can tolerate fresh or brackish water and builds its den in the disused burrows of other animals.

There are six distinct anuran species that can be found in the Montana valleys and foothills grasslands, including: Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys); Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas); Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens); Plains Spadefoot Toad (Spea bombifrons); Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris), an anuran that typically breeds in shallow quiet ponds; and the Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata).

Exactly two amphibian taxa occurr in the ecoregion: Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum), a species who prefers lentic waters and spends most of its life hidden under bark or soil; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).

Reptilian species within the ecoregion are: Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), an adaptable taxon that can be found on rocky slopes, prairie and near streambeds; Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta); Western Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix), a taxon that can hibernate in the burrows of rodents or crayfish or even hibernate underwater; Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor); Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera); Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans); Rubber Boa (Charina bottae); Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus); and the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis).

The ecoregion supports endemic and relict fisheries: Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi), Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri), and fluvial Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus), a relict species from past glaciation.

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Palouse Grasslands Habitat

This taxon is found in the Palouse grasslands, among other North American ecoregions. The Palouse ecoregion extends over eastern Washington, northwestern Idaho and northeastern Oregon. Grasslands and savannas once covered extensive areas of the inter-mountain west, from southwest Canada into western Montana in the USA. Today, areas like the great Palouse prairie of eastern  are virtually eliminated as natural areas due to conversion to rangeland. The Palouse, formerly a vast expanse of native wheatgrasses (Agropyron spp), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis), and other grasses, has been mostly plowed and converted to wheat fields or is covered by Drooping Brome (Bromus tectorum) and other alien plant species.

the Palouse historically resembled the mixed-grass vegetation of the Central grasslands, except for the absence of short grasses. Such species as Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Elymus spicatus), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis) and Giant Wildrye (Elymus condensatus) and the associated species Lassen County Bluegrass (Poa limosa), Crested Hairgrass (Koeleria pyramidata), Bottlebrush Squirrel-tail (Sitanion hystrix), Needle-and-thread (Stipa comata) and Western Wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) historically dominated the Palouse prairie grassland.

Representative mammals found in the Palouse grasslands include the Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris), found burrowing in grasslands or beneath rocky scree; American Black Bear (Ursus americanus); American Pika (Ochotona princeps); Coast Mole (Scapanus orarius), who consumes chiefly earthworms and insects; Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis); Gray Wolf (Canis lupus); Great Basin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus parvus); Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis); the Near Threatened Washington Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus washingtoni), a taxon who prefers habitat with dense grass cover and deep soils; and the Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), a mammal that can be either arboreal or fossorial.

There are not a large number of amphibians in this ecoregion. The species present are the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana), a fossorial toad that sometimes filches the burrows of small mammals; Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum); Northern Leopard Frog (Glaucomys sabrinus), typically found near permanent water bodies or marsh; Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris), usually found near permanent lotic water; Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla), who deposits eggs on submerged plant stems or the bottom of water bodies; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), fossorial species found in burrows or under rocks; Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii), found in arid grasslands with deep friable soils; Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas), who uses woody debris or submerged vegetation to protect its egg-masses.

There are a limited number of reptiles found in the Palouse grasslands, namely only: the Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea), often found in screes, rock outcrops as well as riparian vicinity; the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta), who prefers lentic freshwater habitat with a thick mud layer; Yellow-bellied Racer (Chrysemys picta); Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus), often found under loose stones in this ecoregion; Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii), a fossorial taxon often found in bunchgrass habitats; Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana), frequently found in sandy washes with scattered rocks; Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata), an essentially terrestrial species that prefers riparian areas and other moist habitats; Pacific Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata), a species that usually overwinters in upland habitat; Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), who, when inactive, may hide under rocks or in animal burrows; Night Snake (Hypsiglena torquata); Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus), who prefers grasslands with rocky areas; Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans), found in rocky grasslands, especially near water; Rubber Boa (Charina bottae).

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Comments: Habitat includes woodlands, forest clearings, patchy chaparral, meadows, and grassy savannas, generally not far from water; also riparian zones in arid canyons and sagebrush in some areas (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995, St. John 2002, Stebbins 2003). Generally this snake is found in or under rotting logs or stumps, under rocks or in crevices, or under the bark of dead fallen trees.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Habitat includes woodlands, forest clearings, patchy chaparral, meadows, and grassy savannas, generally not far from water; also riparian zones in arid canyons and sagebrush in some areas (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995, St. John 2002, Stebbins 2003). Generally this snake is found in or under rotting logs or stumps, under rocks or in crevices, or under the bark of dead fallen trees.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Diet includes mice, shrews, lizards, lizard eggs, snakes, and small birds. This snake generally kills its prey by constriction prior to ingestion.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

Comments: This species is represented by many occurrences or subpopulations. For example, Stewart (1977) mapped over 200 collection sites rangewide.

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000. This snake is secretive, but under appropriate temperature and moisture conditions it becomes evident that it is locally quite common (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Activity occurs mostly at night or dusk but also commonly occurs in daytime during mild cloudy weather. Most activity occurs from March to November.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 26.5 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Live-bearing; 2-8 young are born August-November.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread in western North America; secure due to widespread occurrence in many areas that still provide suitable habitat.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of the wide range, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough for listing in a more threatened category.
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Overall, the extent of occurrence, area of occupnacy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are relatively stable.

Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

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Population

Population
This species is represented by many occurrences or subpopulations. For example, Stewart (1977) mapped over 200 collection sites rangewide. The total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000. This snake is secretive, but under appropriate temperature and moisture conditions it becomes evident that it is locally quite common (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995). Overall, the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are probably relatively stable. The populations in southern California may be declining but few reliable data are available.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: The species is not threatened in most of the range.

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Major Threats
The species is not threatened in most of the range. The subspecies C. b. umbratica of southern California is reportedly declining due to habitat loss and degradation (resort development, smog, logging, wood gathering) (California Department of Fish and Game 1990).
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Management

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many occurrences are in national and state parks and other protected areas.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Many occurrences are in national and state parks and other protected areas. It is listed on CITES Appendix II.
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Wikipedia

Rubber boa

The rubber boa (Charina bottae) is a snake in the family Boidae that is native to the Western United States and British Columbia, Canada.

Taxonomy[edit]

The name Charina is from the Greek for graceful or delightful, and the name bottae honors Dr. Paolo E. Botta, an Italian ship's surgeon, explorer and naturalist. The Boidae family consists of the nonvenomous snakes commonly called boas and consists of 43 species. The genus Charina consists of four species, three of which are found in North America, and one species found in Africa. It is sometimes also known as the coastal rubber boa or the northern rubber boa and is not to be confused with the southern rubber boa (Charina umbratica). There is debate on whether the southern rubber boa should be a separate species or a subspecies (Charina bottae umbratica). The only other boa species found in the United States is the rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata).

Identification[edit]

Rubber boas are one of the smaller boa species, adults can be anywhere from 15 to 33 inches (840 mm) long; and newborns are typically 7.5 to 9 inches (230 mm) long. The common name is derived from their skin which is often loose and wrinkled and consists of small scales that are smooth and shiny, these characteristics give the snakes a rubber like look and texture. Colors are typically tan to dark brown with a lighter ventral surface but sometimes olive-green, yellow, or orange. Newborns often appear pink and slightly transparent but darken with age. Rubber boas have small eyes with vertically elliptical pupils and short blunt heads that are no wider than the body. One of the most identifiable characteristics of rubber boas is their short blunt tails that closely resemble the shape of their head. Rubber boas appear quite different visually than any other species that share the same range (except maybe for the southern rubber boa) and thus are usually easy to identify.

Distribution[edit]

Rubber boas are the most northerly of boa species. The distribution of rubber boas covers a large portion of the western United States, stretching from the Pacific Coast east to western Utah and Montana, as far south as the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles in California, and as far north as southern British Columbia. There have also been rare sightings in Colorado and Alberta in addition to the states/provinces that they are known to thrive in (California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia).

Habitat[edit]

Rubber boas have been known to inhabit a wide variety of habitat types from grassland, meadows and chaparral to deciduous and conifer forests, to high alpine settings. They can be found at elevations anywhere from sea level to over 10,000 feet (3,000 m). They are not as tolerant of higher temperatures as other snake species and cannot inhabit areas that are too hot and dry, but can live in areas that are surprisingly cold, especially for a snake. Rubber Boas also spend a large amount of time under shelter (rocks, logs, leaf litter, burrows, etc.) and thus must live in habitats that can provide this, as well as adequate warmth, moisture, and prey. It is also thought that Rubber Boas maintain a relatively small home range as many individuals are often captured in the same vicinity year after year, although individuals may occasionally migrate due to competition, lack of prey, or other pressures.

Behavior[edit]

Characteristics of rubber boas behavior also set them apart from other snakes. Rubber boas are considered one of the most docile of the boa species and are often used to help people overcome their fear of snakes [1] . Rubber Boas are known to never strike at or bite a human under any circumstances but will release a potent musk from their vent if they feel threatened. They are primarily nocturnal and likely crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk) which partially contributes to how rarely they are encountered. Because of the temperate regions they inhabit Rubber Boas hibernate during the winter months in underground dens. Hunting – Rubber boas primarily feed on young mammals such as shrews, voles, mice, etc. When nestling mammals are encountered they will try to consume the entire litter if possible and fend off the mother with their tail, this is why individuals will often have extensive scarring on their tails. Rubber boas have also been known to prey on snake eggs, lizard eggs, lizards, young birds, young bats, and there have even been instances of them eating other snakes. Predation – Rubber boas can be preyed upon by almost any reasonably sized predator in their habitat. When threatened, Rubber Boas will curl into a ball, bury their head inside, and expose their tail to mimic their head. While this is thought to be a primary defense technique against predators, it is doubtful that this behavior is effective in most cases being that many predators are too large (raptors, coyotes, raccoons, cats, etc.). In reality the best defense of rubber boas is their secretive nature.

Reproduction[edit]

Rubber boas are ovoviviparous (give birth to live young) and can have up to 9 young per year, but many females will only reproduce every four years. Mating occurs shortly after reemergence from hibernation in the spring and young are born anywhere from August to November later that year.[2]

Other[edit]

The southern rubber boa is found only in a few disjunct areas of California.

The rubber boa is a primitive snake compared to its much larger relatives native to Latin America, which include the boa constrictor, emerald tree boa, and green anaconda. The rubber boa has retained the club-like tail of its Erycine ancestors.

An adult rubber boa
A young rubber boa in Oregon, shown with a US nickel for size comparison.

It is an extremely adaptable snake. It is a good climber, burrower, and even swimmer.

The rubber boa has an established population around Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "All About The Rubber Boa Charina bottae, Natural History (and other info) of the Rubber Boa". All About The Rubber Boa Charina bottae. October 8, 2009. Retrieved October 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ "California Reptiles and Amphibians, Northern Rubber Boa". California Reptiles & Amphibians. February 23, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Radium Hot Springs’ Remarkable Rubber Boa: A Species of Special Concern". Parks Canada Agency. October 4, 2004. Retrieved June 12, 2007. 

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Nussbaum and Hoyer (1974) showed that subspecies utahensis is indistiguishable from subspecies bottae, and they regarded the concept "umbratica" as meaningless; Collins (1990) apparently agreed with this view and did not recognize any subspecies. In contrast, Erwin (1974) proposed that subspecies umbratica warrants species status; this suggestion did not gain the support of other herpetologists. Stewart (1977) recognized two subspecies (bottae and umbratica) and, pending further study, regarded populations from Mt. Pinos and the Tehachapi Mountains, California, as intergrades between these two subspecies. Stebbins (1985) continued to recognize three subspecies (bottae, utahensis, and umbratica). Rodriguez-Robles et al. (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogeography of C. bottae and concluded that "C. b. umbratica is a genetically cohesive, allopatric taxon that is morphologically diagnosable" [using a suite of traits] and that "it is an independent evolutionary unit that should be recognized as a distinct species, Charina umbratica." The authors acknowledged that a mixture of bottae and umbratica traits exists in populations in the Tehachapi Mountains and Mount Pinos, but they interpreted this as persistent ancestral polymorphisms. They also found no support for recognizing utahensis as a valid taxon. Crother et al. (2003) listed C. umbratica as a species whereas Stebbins (2003) mentioned the proposal but did not adopt the split. In this database we follow Crother (2008) and Collins and Taggart (2009) and recognize Charina umbratica as a distinct species.

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