Western Shovelnose Snake
This nocturnal and burrowing species ranges throughout the arid areas of South Eastern California, Southern Nevada and South Western Arizona. They also exist in Baja and North West Sonoran Areas of Mexico.
There are currently four sub-species of this bizarre species recognised and they are Colorado Desert Shovelnose Snake (Chionactis occipitalis annulata),
Tuscan Shovelnose Snake (Chionactis occipitalis klauberi)
, Mojave Shovelnose Snake (Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis
) and the Nevada Shovelnose Snake (Chionactis occipitalis talpina
This species curls into a ball or burrows away to escape danger in the wild. It has been observed active during daylight but only within shaded areas (observation by Gary Nafis).
As adults there average size is usually between 25 and 43 cm in length.
This species is an insectivore suitable foods to offer include crickets, locusts (spines pulled off), waxworms, earthworms, spiders, craneflies, etc. These should be dusted with calcium supplements and gut loaded prior to feeding. Always ensure any wild caught insects are taken from areas not sprayed with pesticides. Also ensure that the specimen you are purchasing is feeding prior to collection.
- Heat Source – A thermostatically controlled and guarded Ceramic heater or red/green reflector spot bulb is usually the best method of heating these should be guarded to prevent thermal burns from occurring. Care should be taken if heat mats are used as ventral infections and damage has been linked to their use with burrowing species.
- UV Light Source: - Although it is a controversial issue regarding the use of UV supplementation with snakes, many herpetologists wouldn't be without one. It has therefore been included here as a suggestion. The best type of UVB light is a Reptisun 2.0 or Similar; this should be positioned no more than 30cm away from the basking reptile and changed every 6-7 months. This should be left on for 8 to 12 hours a day. Care should be taken however if your snake is albino (or other unpigmented colour morphs) as the light intensity could have detrimental effects on the eyes of your snake. Vitamin D3 supplements should not be used as well as a UV light.
- Housing: - This should consist of a dark wooden vivarium with glass frontage and adequate ventilation. Hatchlings require a small hatchling tub (pen pal, geoflat or even a ventilated sandwich box), which can be housed in a heated vivarium. A pair of adult snakes can be housed within a vivarium measuring 90cm long by 45cm deep by 45cm high (36 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches).
- Thermostat: - An essential part of any vivarium and is required to regulate the internal temperatures of the vivarium and to prevent your pet from becoming too hot or too cold.
- Wire Mesh Guards: - These should be fitted over all heat sources used in order to prevent thermal burns.
- Thermometers: - One should be placed at each end of the vivarium in order to give an accurate reading of the temperatures within the vivarium. Never go by the temperature on the thermostat, as these are often inaccurate.
- Hides: - These are essential to prevent stress and allow your pet to hide away from the outside world. Artificial plants, boxes, plant pots, cave etc. all make excellent hides. A box with a whole just big enough for the snake to fit through (either on the side or top) is an excellent hide especially for problem feeders. Deep substrate is also a good hide for this species.
Water and Humidity
A small and shallow ceramic/earthenware dog bowl is best for these snakes as they are harder for them to tip over. This water should be changed daily as this is also the water they drink. Humidity levels should be kept low as high levels of humidity may cause respiratory conditions in this species.
A background temperature of 24 degrees Celsius is required. A basking area covering one third of the vivarium should be allowed to reach temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius.
Most captive specimens appear to live between 6 and 10 years in captivity.
Layers of calcium sand or children’s (silica free) play sand are suitable for this species. They must be at least 3 inches deep to allow digging behaviour otherwise this species will cease to feed.
NB Photograph taken from http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?special=browse&where-lifeform=Reptile&where-taxonfiltered=Chionactis+occipitalis
Map of Californian distribution taken from http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/maps/coccipitalismap.jpg by Gary Nafis.
Recommended Reading/Useful Contacts
Stuart Dodsworth – email@example.com
The International Herpetological Society – www.international-herp-society.co.uk
The British Herpetological Society – www.thebhs.org
Taxonomy Information – http://srs.embl-heidelberg.de:8000/srs5bin/cgi-bin/wgetz?-e+[REPTILIA-Species:'Chionactis_SP_occipitalis