|Diagnosis||RECOGNITION. This small (TBL to 48.3 cm) north-western snake has a short, tapered tail with a pointed terminal scale. The body is gray to reddish brown, and gray individuals usually have pink to red pigment on the top of the tail. Each dorsal scale is black bordered. A pale yellow to red stripe may occur on each side of the body; a series of black dots lies below the stripe, and below the stripe the body is darker than above it. The small head is dorsally flattened, rounded anteriorly, and distinct from the neck. The pupil is round. Dorsally, the head is olive brown to dark gray or black, and a dark mask begins on the side of the snout and passes rearward through the orbit to the neck. The rostral scale and supralabials often bear white pigment. On the white venter, the anterior edge of each ventral scute is black, presenting a banded pattern. Dorsal body scales are smooth and pitless and occur in 15 rows along the length of the body. Beneath are 147-186 ventrals, 27-57 subcaudals, and a divided anal plate. Lateral head scales include 1-2 nasals (which may be whole, partially divided, or totally divided), 1 loreal, 1 (rarely 2) preocular(s), 2 (1) postoculars, 1 + 1-2 temporals, 7 (6) supralabials, and 7 infralabials. The anterior pair of chin shields is much larger than those that follow.|
The slightly bilobed hemipenis has a forked sulcus spermaticus, longitudinal rows of small spines (usually four to six per row) along the main shaft, larger spines at its base, small spines in the fork between the lobes, and four to five rows of calyxes near the tip of each short lobe.
Each maxilla has 7-11 rather long teeth.
Sexual dimorphism: Few to no external characters separate the sexes, although in males the base of the tail may be swollen just behind the anal vent. (ERNST & ERNST 2003)
SIMILAR SPECIES. In its range, this snake can only be confused with melanistic ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus), but these snakes have two three preoculars and dark flecks on the venter. (ERNST & ERNST 2003)
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- Beaman, Kent R. and Nate G. Tucker. 2014. Contia tenuis (sharp-tailed snake) predation. Herpetological Review 45 (3): 514 - get paper here
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- Cunningham, J.D. 1962. High elevation records of Contia tenuis Herpetologica 18 (2): 133-134. - get paper here
- Cunningham, John D. 1963. High elevation records of Contia tenuis. Herpetologica 18 (2): 133-134 - get paper here
- Ernst, C.H. & Ernst, E.M. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, 668 pp.
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- Govindarajulu, Purnima; Leigh Anne Isaac, Christian Engelstoft, and Kristiina Ovaska 2011. Relevance of Life-History Parameter Estimation to Conservation Listing: Case of the Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis). Journal of Herpetology 45 (3): 300-307. - get paper here
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- Kristiina Ovaska, Christian Engelstoft, Lennart Sopuck, David Robichaud 2021. Spatial distribution and abundance of Common Sharp-tailed Snakes (Contia tenuis) on Observatory Hill, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. J North American Herpetology 2021 (2) - get paper here
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- OVASKA, KRISTIINA; CHRISTIAN ENGELSTOFT, LENNART SOPUCK & DAVID ROBICHAUD. 2021. Spatial distribution and abundance of Common Sharp-tailed Snakes (Contia tenuis) on Observatory Hill, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Journal of North American Herpetology 2021.(2). - get paper here
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- Stickel, William H. 1951. Distinctions between the snake genera Contia and Eirenis. Herpetologica 7: 125-132 - get paper here
- Tanner, W.W. 1967. Contia tenuis Baird and Girard in Continental British Columbia, Canada Herpetologica 23 (4): 323. - get paper here
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