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What is a Glossy Snake?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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The glossy snake, also known by its scientific name, Arizona elegans, is a non-venomous snake found in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Though its coloration can vary based on its habitat, it generally has shiny scales, a trait which inspired its common name. It generally lives in sandy or rocky environments and hunts its prey at night.

In general, the adult glossy snake ranges from three to four feet (91.44 to 121.92 cm) in length. It has a pointed head that appears small in relation to its length. In addition, its top jaw protrudes beyond the lower portion of its mouth.

Its coloration can vary based on its environment, an adaptive feature that allows it to blend into its surroundings. Most glossy snakes are beige or taupe, with white undersides and dark brown markings running along their heads and the length of their backs. Those that live in very sandy regions tend to have a coloration that is “faded” in appearance. All glossy snakes have smooth, shiny scales, a characteristic which led to their “glossy” designation.

Various subspecies of the glossy snake are found throughout the Southwestern United States as well as northwestern Mexico, particularly in the desert regions of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, California, and Baja California. It tends to favor arid environments which are sandy, rocky, or covered by dry scrub. As a nocturnal animal, it usually spends the day sleeping in underground burrows which it has dug, emerging in the evening to hunt for food.

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Typical prey for the glossy snake includes lizards as well as small snakes and mammals. It is not venomous, and usually kills its food by strangling it — a behavior known as constriction — or by simply swallowing it whole. Due to its lack of venom and its relatively small size, the glossy snake is thought to pose no significant threat to humans.

Like many snakes, the glossy snake is oviparous, meaning that it lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It normally breeds during the summer months, and its eggs hatch early in the fall. After breeding, most female glossy snakes lay between ten and 20 eggs. Due to predation by animals such as birds of prey, carnivorous mammals, and larger snakes, it is very likely that at least some of these eggs will never reach the hatching point. Newborn glossy snakes generally measure approximately ten inches (22.86 cm) in length.

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