Western Black-headed Snake - Tantilla planiceps
( Blainville, 1835 )



No Photo Available No Map Available California, US
No Photo Available No Map Available California, US

Est. World Population:


Body Length: 15.5 in (40 cm)
Tail Length:
Shoulder Height:

Top Speed:
Jumping Ability: (Horizontal)

Life Span: in the Wild
Life Span: in Captivity

Sexual Maturity: (Females)
Sexual Maturity: (Males)
Clutch Size:
Gestation Period:

A small, thin, snake with a flat head and smooth, shiny scales. The top of the head is dark brown or black, with a faint light collar between the dark cap and the body color which is brownish or beige and unmarked. This collar may or may not have a border of dark dots. The dark color usually drops below the mouthline behind the corner of the jaw.The belly is whitish with a reddish stripe that does not extend all the way to the edge of the ventral scales. This snake uses a mild form of venom to immobilize its prey. This venom is considered harmless to humans. One of the smallest snakes in California, about 3.5 - 15.5 inches long (9 - 40 cm).

Occurs in grassland, chaparral, oak and oak-pine woodland, deserts. Along the rocky edges of streas and washes. Often found beneath rocks, plant debris, and other surface cover.

The known range of this snake in California and elsewhere is spotty due to its secretive nature. Its range is probably less disjointed than the records show. It occurs along the coast of southern California, east and north to the desert side of the mountains as far as Whitewater Canon, and north through the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay where it has been recorded just south of San Jose and east of Livermore. Occurs in disjointed locations in Baja California south to the cape. From near sea level to about 4,000 ft. (1,219 m).

Life Cycle:
Not well understood. Eggs are laid, probably in May and June.

Food & Hunting:
Millipedes, centipedes, and insects.

Secretive -spends much of its time underground or underneath surface objects. A good burrower, able to disappear quickly into loose soil. Occasionally found active on the surface at night on roads, especially after rains.

Similar Species:
Tantilla hobartsmithi - Smith's Black-headed Snake

Stebbins, Robert C.. Peterson Field Guides: Western Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985
Behler, John. Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians of North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988
Brown, Philip R.. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing, 1997
Ernst, C. & E. Ernst. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2003
Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1994

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Additions?
Please contact The Virtual Zoo Staff

Database Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

You are visitor count here since 21 May 2013

page design & content copyright © 2020 Andrew S. Harris

return to virtualzoo.org home

This page reprinted from http://www.virtualzoo.org. Copyright © 2020 Andrew S. Harris.

The Virtual Zoo, San Jose, CA 95125, USA