Desert Nightsnake

Hypsiglena torquata

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Status

Endangered (Federal)
Red List (provincial)

Description

Non-venemous snake up to 61 cm in length. It's upper parts are a pale brownish-orange to greyish-yellow with lines of dark brown, staggered paired blotches on the back, and two rows of alternating blotches on the sides. Three large distinctive blotches on the back of the neck are usually connected giving it a "saddled" appearance. A dark stripe runs through the eye which has a vertical pupil.
The head is somewhat triangular and the belly is whitish or yellowish. Despite being harmless, this species is sometimes mistakenly identified as a young Western Rattlesnake.

Habitat

Grassland
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Rocky terrain
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April to October. These snakes are found in hot, dry grassland shrub-steppe and rugged terrain areas under rocks, on talus slopes, and in shrubby/grassy areas in both the south Okanagan and lower Similkameen Valleys. They hibernate during the winter, often near rattlesnake dens and usually within rock outcroppings, talus slopes, or under large rock piles with a southern exposure.

Only about 20 individuals have ever been found in Canada and all have been between Penticton and the US/Canada border near Osoyoos and Cawston

Threats

-Habitat loss from agricultural and urban development
-Vehicle road mortality
-Human fear and dislike of snakes (though nonvenomous, this snake resembles the Western Rattlesnake)

You Can Help!

-Protect grassland-shrub-steppe and rugged terrain habitats
-Be mindful of snakes crossing roadways
-Avoid disrupting dens and nesting sites
-Avoid killing this harmless, non-venomous snake
-Educate others about the importance of snakes

Photo: Valerie Blow
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