Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

SMITH'S BLACK-HEADED SNAKE (Tantilla hobartsmithi) Arizona
Maricopa County, AZ

 SMITH’S BLACK-HEADED SNAKE  Tantilla hobartsmithi
Mildly Venomous
DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 313 mm or 12″ in total length), slender, light brown, tan, or gray snake with a dark gray-brown or black head cap. The head cap is straight or slightly convex on its rear edge and extends back only 3 or fewer small scales behind the parietal furrow (central seam between rear-most large head scales). A red, pink, or orange stripe runs down the center of the belly. The scales are smooth and the small head is barely distinct from the neck. There are enlarged, grooved teeth in the rear upper jaw.

DISTRIBUTION: This snake is found across southeastern Arizona and sub-Mogollon Rim central Arizona at elevations ranging from 1,500′ to about 5,500′.

HABITAT: It inhabits a variety of biotic communities including Sonoran Desertscrub, Semidesert Grassland, Interior Chaparral, Madrean Evergreen Woodland, and Great Basin Conifer Woodland. It is usually found above the flatlands on rocky bajadas, foothills, mountain canyons and on the higher banks along riparian corridors.

BEHAVIOR: This secretive, nocturnal ground-dweller spends the majority of its time beneath the surface of the ground. It is occasionally encountered on the surface at night. Most near-surface activity seems to occur on moist spring days when it is often found under rocks, logs, and surface debris. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter.

Venom is delivered to prey via enlarged, grooved teeth in the rear upper jaw (not considered to be dangerous to humans). It eats a variety of invertebrates including centipedes, scorpions, beetle larvae, and other insects.

REPRODUCTION: A clutch of up to 3 eggs is laid in summer.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Bartlett. 2000. Snakes of North America: Western
Gulf Publishing Co. Houston, TX

Brennan, T. C., and A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Brennan, T. C., and A. T. Holycross. 2005. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Maricopa County. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Fowlie. 1965. The Snakes of Arizona. Azul Quinta Press, Fallbrook, California

Stebbins. 1985. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin. New York,

SMITH'S BLACK-HEADED SNAKE (Tantilla hobartsmithi) Arizona Range Map

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