I had high hopes for this animal. I had visions of the sharptail snake stabbing prey with its razor sharp tail. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, but it does have a spine on the end of its tail. That’s pretty awesome in my books.

The sharptail snake is found in North America, in British Columbia and California. They like to live in areas that have high moisture content and leaf litter or other debris as protection. They also enjoy cooler temperatures, so usually are most active during the fall and winter. This is a bit unusual for snakes, which I generally picture as living in hot, dry climates.

The most fearsome snake on the planet.
Image by Bill Bouton, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sharptail snakes are fairly small, with most snakes only reaching 30 cm in length, though some snakes can be almost a half a metre long. They are either reddish-brown or gray on top, with a white line running down the snakes’ sides. Their underbellies are more interesting, with alternating stripes of black, gray or green bars. The tail spine that characterizes this snake is unfortunately not used for stabbing victims, but rather to anchor the snake while it wrestles its prey.

Not only is this disappointing, but the prey that the snake needs to ‘wrestle’ are not very exciting: they eat slugs. I guess it makes sense; slugs are known for their agility and rapid movements that they use to escape predators. Oh wait, sorry, that’s not right. They’re slugs. How hard can they be to catch? I guess they are pretty slimy, but the snake has a solution for this — it has needle-like teeth that help it grip its elusive meal.

Okay I guess if you’re this small catching slugs might be kind of difficult…
Image by Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adding to their image as a big bad snake, sharptails are elusive, hard-to find snakes that hide for most of the year. In the summer conditions are too dry for the snakes, so they live in burrows until it gets wet enough. Even when they are active, they hide under leaf litter, rocks and logs.

Though I do think the sharptail snake is interesting (I mean, it eats slugs for a living), I’m still quite disappointed it didn’t turn out to be a stabbing beast of a snake. Ah well, I guess all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Cover image by Don Loarie, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, cropped to fit