Plains Black-headed Snake

Tantilla nigriceps

Plains Black-headed Snake

Distribution in Wyoming








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The distribution of the Plains Black-headed Snake extends from southwestern Nebraska south through western Kansas and eastern Colorado into Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In Wyoming this secretive snake is known only from Glendo State Park when it was first discovered there in 1985. It has not been documented in Wyoming since 1985. It resides in habitats within the plains, grassland, and shrubland communities containing loose soils with rocks, logs, and other surface debris which provide hiding places. Adequate soil moisture is critical to this snake and it spends most of the time underground—its short body and pointed head are adaptations of the fossorial lifestyle.

They are nocturnal insectivores feeding on centipedes, spiders, and earthworms. These snakes have grooved fangs at the back of the upper jaw and these rear-fangs allow venom to be introduced into their prey to immobilize the victim while beginning the early stages of digestion. Because of the type of venom, the fang delivery system, and small mouth size, these snakes are generally considered harmless to humans.

They are very small snakes with a maximum length of about 16 inches (TL) but are more commonly found in the range of 10-12 inches. Their dorsal scales are smooth and the anal plate is divided. They have a more or less uniform dorsal background color of tan or light brown. The belly is white or cream with some pink along the midline and is free of blemishes. As their surname suggests, there is a black or dark brown cap on the top of the head that extends back on to the neck.

Plains Black-headed Snake Plains Black-headed Snake

*Permission granted for use of three Plains Black-headed Snake images, © Gary Nafis.