Overview

Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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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: The range extends from northern and central California (along the Coast Ranges south to San Luis Obispo County and the Sierra Nevada south to Tulare County) northward to the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and also includes the Puget Lowland southwest of Tacoma (at least formerly) and scattered locations on the east side of the Cascades in Washington and north-central Oregon, as well as the southern end of Vancouver Island and the nearby Gulf Islands of British Columbia, at elevations from sea level to around 2,010 meters (6,600 feet) (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995, Leonard and Ovaska 1998, St. John 2002, Stebbins 2003, Feldman and Hoyer 2010). A record from near McGillivray Lake in south-central British Columbia needs confirmation (Stebbins 2003).

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Range Description

This species occurs mainly in the west of the United States, extending into extreme southwestern Canada. Its range extends from northern and central California (along the Coast Ranges south to San Luis Obispo County and the Sierra Nevada south to Tulare County) north to the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and also includes the Puget Lowland southwest of Tacoma (at least formerly) and scattered locations on the east side of the Cascades in Washington and north-central Oregon, as well as the southern end of Vancouver Island and the nearby Gulf Islands British Columbia, at elevations from sea level to around 2,010 m (6,600 feet) (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Brown et al. 1995, Leonard and Ovaska 1998, St. John 2002, Stebbins 2003). A record from near McGillivray Lake in south-central British Columbia needs confirmation (Stebbins 2003).
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Geographic Range

The Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) is a North American species generally found in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range from southern California to southern British Columbia and along the Pacific Coast of California. In California, this species can be found in and along the mountains from Eureka to central San Luis Obispo, and along western slope of the Sierras in the foothills and at middle to low elevations (max altitude 2130 m (7000 ft.) (Leviton 1971; Morey 1989).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Continent: North-America
Distribution: Canada (British Columbia), USA (Washington, Oregon, California)
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Wheatland California

As a young person living in Wheatland California I would sometimes find one of these beautiful colored Sharp Tailed Snakes. I am 56 years old now and while visiting my parents I uncovered a water faucet that comes out of the ground that has a bucket over it and a pair of pants covering the faucet. I was amazed to find a small hand full of 13 little Sharpe Tail Snakes most huddled together some in the folds of the pants. I was very delighted to see so many in one place.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

At maximum, the Sharp-tailed Snake may grow to a length of 19 inches (47.5cm), but most adults are about 12 inches (30cm) long. Shiny reddish-brown or gray scales above and a whitish line down the side characterize C. tenuis. An alternating pattern of black, pale greenish, gray, or cream bars can be found on its belly, and its smooth scales come in 15 rows around the body. The most distinguishing characteristic of this snake is the sharp spine-like scale at the tip of its tail. Although the function of this scale is not completely understood, it is thought to be used as an anchor during struggles with its victims (Basey 1976; Leviton 1971).

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Diagnostic Description

Contia longicaudae is genetically cohesive, possesses a greater number of caudal scales, a proportionately longer tail, and tends to be larger overall with more pronounced dorsolateral stripes and a more muted ventral coloration than C. tenuis (Feldman and Hoyer 2010).

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Type Information

Holotype for Contia tenuis
Catalog Number: USNM 7289
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 Contia tenuis
Catalog Number: USNM 2034
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: San Jose, Santa Clara, California, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Baird, S. F. & Girard, C. 1853. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 2 (5): 110.
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Paratype for Contia tenuis
Catalog Number: USNM 8075
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: No Further Locality Data, Oregon, United States, North America
  • Paratype: Baird, S. F. & Girard, C. 1853. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 2 (5): 110.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Terrestrial

Comments: Habitat includes moist situations in pastures, meadows, oak woodlands, broken chaparral, and the edges of coniferous or hardwood forests (Stebbins 2003); also shrubby rabbitbrush-sagebrush (Weaver, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:176). This snake generally is found under logs, rocks, fallen branches, or other cover. It retreats underground during dry periods.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Habitat includes moist situations in pastures, meadows, oak woodlands, broken chaparral, and the edges of coniferous or hardwood forests (Stebbins 2003); also shrubby rabbitbrush-sagebrush (Weaver 2004, Herpetological Review 35: 176). The long-tailed form appears to be associated with coniferous forest habitats that are relatively cool and humid. This snake generally is found under logs, rocks, fallen branches, or other cover. It retreats underground during dry periods.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Sharp-tailed Snakes occur in a variety of habitats, however, they are most commonly found in moist environments with an abundance of surface debris, such as twigs, roots, and leaves. The Sharp-tailed Snake is found in areas with surface moisture and it becomes active during the cool fall and winter temperatures. Because of their preference for cooler temperatures and higher moisture levels, C. tenuis is active at different times and in different microhabitats than most snakes. However, its range overlaps that of the Ring-neck Snake(Diadophis punctatus), and they can be found under the same cover at times. The Sharp-tailed Snake can be found mainly in wooded areas or near intermittent streams (Leviton 1971; Morey 1989; Basey 1976).

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; mountains

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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 apparently is restricted primarily to slugs.

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Food Habits

Slugs are the primary food of the Sharp-tailed Snake.

Although there are no observations of C. tenuis preying on

any other species, it is suggested that snails and small

plethodontid salamanders may also be taken. The Sharp-tailed Snake may use the spine on its tail to brace itself while capturing its prey. Long, needle-like teeth on its mandibles are noted as an adaptation to gripping and eating slugs (Mattison 1995; Stebbins 1954; Greene 1997).

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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: 81 to >300

Comments: This species is represented by a large number of occurrences (subpopulations). Feldman and Hoyer (2010) mapped more than 200 widely distributed collection sites.

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000. This species is locally common.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Most active in the rainy season. Retreats underground in the dry season. Sometimes found alive on roads at night (Weaver, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:176).

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Reproduction

Reproductive females deposit a clutch of up to 9 egg probably in June or July.

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Habitat requirements for reproduction are unknown. Mating

of the Sharp-tailed Snake occurs in spring and in the

summer it lays 3-8 eggs. There is evidence that indicates that on occasion, eggs are laid in communal nest sites. Hatching occurs in the fall, and the egg clutches can be found in 7 to 15cm (2.8 to 6 in.) of soil, among grass roots and deep in rock outcrops (Morey 1989; Basey 1976; Nussbaum et al. 1983).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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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 its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are stable.

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

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Population

Population
This species is represented by a large number of occurrences (subpopulations). Nussbaum et al. (1983) mapped about 30 collection sites in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Many more sites exist in California. The adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000. This species is locally common. The extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are probably stable.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Low

Comments: No major threats are known.

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Major Threats
No major threats are known.
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Management

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

Comments: Many occurrences are in protected areas.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Many occurrences are in protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

None.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

C. tenuis has no major economic importance, but may be adapting to live around rural and suburban gardens, where they feed on abundant non-native slug species (Morey 1989).

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Wikipedia

Sharp-tailed snake

The sharp-tailed snake or sharptail snake (Contia tenuis) is a small, locally common colubrid snake that lives in the western United States.

Contents

Geographic range [edit]

It is distributed through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as British Columbia, Canada.

Description [edit]

The sharp-tailed snake averages from eight to twelve inches long as an adult. It is distinguished by its sharp tail spine, which is the protruding tip of the last tail vertebra. The spine is not toxic and cannot injure humans. Rather, the tail is used to stabilize small prey, such as slugs, for consumption. The dorsal surface ranges in color from greyish-brown to brown to brick red, with bubble-gum pink and peachy-orange specimens occasionally found. The ventral surface is a striking series of black and white bars.

Behavior [edit]

Sharp-tailed snakes are shy, secretive creatures most often encountered under rocks and logs, and rarely to never found in the open. They are able to persist in urban areas where appropriate cover can be found. They are known to burrow into soft soil or cracks in the clay, and may be encountered by people who are digging in the garden or removing concrete. When encountered, sharp-tailed snakes may roll into a ball and remain still. They can be mistaken for worms to the casual observer. Their diet is largely restricted to slugs and insects.

Reproduction [edit]

4-16 eggs are laid in the summer, underground or in a burrow. Young are 3-4 inches long.

Taxonomy [edit]

Recently, extensive studies on this reptile have shown definite differences that may prove to be a new species.[citation needed] The maximum length is 17-18 inches, with different scaling, as well as a longer tail. The species range extends from southern British Columbia to southern Sierra Nevada and to the central coast of California. The fragmented distribution of the snake in the northern part of its range suggests that populations in British Columbia are relics of a more extensive previous distribution.[citation needed] Seven sites are known in the province, all located on the Gulf Islands and in southeastern Vancouver Island. In 1996-97 the persistence of the snakes was confirmed at four of the seven sites, where they appeared to be confined to habitat patches of about 2 km in diameter.[citation needed] The secretive habits and seasonal activity pattern of the snakes make it difficult to assess their distribution and accurately estimate population densities.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Feldman and Hoyer (2010) formally split Contia tenuis into two species: Contia tenuis, which ranges from southern Vancouver Island (British Columbia) and central Washington to the northern portion of southern California, and C. longicaudae, with a smaller range extending from west-central Oregon to the Monterey Bay region of central California.

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