Variable Sand Snake

Variable Sand Snake, Chilomeniscus straminenus

The Variable Sand Snake, Western Sand Snake, or Banded Sand Snake, Chilomeniscus stramineus, is a member of the Colubridae Family, an enormous family that includes 304 genera and approximately 2,000 species and two-thirds of the global snake population. The Variable Sand Snake, has a stout body with two morphologies, one with 24 to 48 dark brown bands and one without banding. The head is continuous with the thick neck and they have a small upturned eyes with round pupils, valves to block the nasal passages, a flat and wedge-like protruding white to light gray snout, a concaved belly, smooth shiny scales and a deeply inset jaw all of which are useful for burrowing in fine gravel and sand. They are excellent “sand swimmers”. They reside in or near drainages and canyons with loose gravel or sand substrates being a fossorial species that consume a variety of insects including roaches, grasshoppers, and centipedes. The Variable Sand Snake is active at night or during heavy rains, seldom surfacing during the day, and commonly found on desert roads on hot summer nights. Mating occurs in the spring with clutch sizes of up to four eggs. The adult Variable Sand Snake range in size from 17.8 cm (7 inches) to 28 cm (11 inches). They have a very limited distribution being found between Sea Level and 3,000 feet in central and southwest Arizona and Baja California Sur including Cedros and Magdalena Islands in the Pacific and several of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. This snake is nonvenomous and considered harmless to humans. From a conservation perspective they are consider to be of “Least Concern.”

Variable Sand Snake, Chilomeniscus straminenus. This snake was collected from within damp moist sand in a drainage canal in the greater San Jose del Cabo area, Baja California Sur. Length: 25 cm (10.0 inches).

Variable Sand Snake, Chilomeniscus straminenus. This snake was collected from within a residential property in the greater Los Barriles area, Baja California Sur, December 2017. Length: 25 cm (10.0 inches). Collection courtesy of Mike Rousseau, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. First two photos courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Third photo courtesy of Eunice Rousseau, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.