The Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) is a small, non-venomous snake endemic to western North America. Adults are slender (about the thickness of a pencil), usually about 20?30 cm in total length. The back is reddish brown and the underside has characteristic black and white barring. A pointed, thorn-like scale at the end of the tail gives the species its common name.
The Sharp-tailed Snake was designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) due to its small, fragmented range; few scattered populations; and threats to its habitats. It is listed as Endangered in Canada on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). In British Columbia, the Sharp-tailed Snake is ranked S1S2 (imperiled to critically imperiled) by the Conservation Data Centre and is on the provincial Red list. The B.C. Conservation Framework ranks the Sharp-tailed Snake as a priority 1 under Goal 3 (maintain the diversity of native species and ecosystems). It is protected from capture and killing, under the B.C. Wildlife Act. Recovery is considered to be biologically and technically feasible.
The Canadian distribution of the Sharp-tailed Snake is confined to southwestern British Columbia, where it has been documented from the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands (North and South Pender, Saltspring, Galiano), and near Pemberton on the mainland; an unverified historical record exists from another area on the mainland, near Chase. As of August 2014, 14 populations with recent records are known.
Residential and commercial development is deemed to be the main threat to the Sharp-tailed Snake. The snakes occur within relatively densely populated areas of B.C., where their habitats are threatened by expanding urbanization, including housing developments and associated infrastructure. The loss of oviposition (egg-laying) and hibernation habitats is of particular concern; rocky slopes with a southern exposure in small forest openings are thought to be important habitat features for these functions.
Suitable habitats for the species are naturally fragmented, and road building and increased traffic continue to accentuate this fragmentation, exposing snakes to accidental mortality, including road kill. Heavily fragmented landscapes may also constrain movements and access to essential habitat components, such as foraging areas or hibernation sites. Other threats include human activities such as landscaping and off-trail recreation; spread of invasive species, such as Scotch broom that form monocultures and degrade habitat; and logging that disturbs substrates. The impacts of these threats are thought to be low, and many uncertainties are associated with the responses of snakes.
The goal of this recovery strategy is to ensure that Sharp-tailed Snake populations are stable or increasing in abundance and are well distributed across the species? natural range in Canada.
Sharp-tailed Snake Recovery Team. 2015. Recovery Plan for the Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) in British Columbia. Province of BC. BC Recovery Strategy (Species at Risk)
Topic: Recovery Planning
Scientific Name: Contia tenuis
English Name: Sharp-tailed Snake
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