Okanagan Region  
Regional Home Page
Regional Enforcement Branch Regional Environmental Protection Branch
Regional Environmental Stewardship Branch

About Species at Risk
Species Profiles
Conservation Strategies
Related Links

Habitat Atlas for Wildlife at Risk
Night Snake
Hypsiglena torquata deserticola

Night Snake
Night Snake

    Land Tenure - Night Snake Habitat
  • Other Name: Desert Night Snake
  • Length: 30 - 66 cm; small and slender-bodied
  • Beige, yellowish or grey body, patterned with dark grey-brown blotches; belly is unpatterned cream or white.
  • Distinguished from other snakes by three long, dark blotches along the neck, and running behind each eye.
  • Appearance similar to young rattlesnake or Gopher Snake, except for dark neck patches.


British Columbia Red List

Special Significance

The Night Snake is the rarest snake in Canada. It is difficult to determine the population size because of their secretive and nocturnal nature. Despite the fact that they are harmless to humans, they are presumably often killed because they look very similar to young rattlesnakes. There is little known about these elusive creatures but it is believed they prefer similar climate and habitat as the Western Rattlesnake. Attempts should be made to protect den sites, and natural habitats within one kilometre of dens, to ensure the continued survival of these shy and vulnerable creatures.


  • British Columbia's small population is found in Southern Okanagan Valley and Lower Similkameen Valley.


  • Grasslands and low elevation ponderosa pine parkland likely important foraging areas.
  • Found in sandy and rocky habitats.
  • Rock outcrops and cliffs provide winter dens; often close to grassland and marsh habitats.


  • Active from April to October.
  • Females lay 2 to 9 eggs in June or July.
  • Eggs are incubated for about 2 months.

Food Habits

  • Diet includes frogs, lizards and their eggs and large insects.
  • Immobilize prey using venom from fangs at back of upper jaw; venom may only be toxic to frogs and lizards.
  • Foraging occurs from mid-April to mid-September.

Interesting Facts

  • Smallest snake in British Columbia.
  • Only (mildly) venomous snake in British Columbia with fangs at back of upper jaw.


  • When cornered, snakes may attempt to bite in defense.
  • Night Snake venom is not known to be poisonous to humans.


  • Extensive land development in the Okanagan has eliminated or fragmented their habitat (including dens and feeding grounds).
  • Exploitation of talus as source of rip-rap and fill for construction.
  • Deliberate killing by humans because of resemblance to young rattlesnake.
  • Poor condition of rangeland may reduce prey availability.
  • Indirectly killed on roads.
  • Burning and clearing of shrubs and subsequent seeding of non-native grass species may reduce quality and prey availability.

Management Considerations

  • Maintain habitat such as grasslands and ponderosa pine forests.
  • Discourage removal of ground debris in forested areas and exploitation of talus.
  • Conduct survey to locate den sites before surface disturbances occur in their habitat.
  • Identify and protect dens and nesting sites whenever possible.
  • Leave 1 km buffer zone around known den sites and critical habitats.
  • Avoid road construction near talus slopes and around known snake dispersal routes.
  • Maintain good range condition in grasslands for cover and habitat for prey species.


1. Nussbaum, R.A., E. Brodie and R. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho.
2. Gregory, PT and R.W. Campbell. 1984. The reptiles of British Columbia. British Columbia Provincial Museum Handbook No. 44. Victoria, BC.


Government of BC links
Ministry Home Government of British Columbia Ministry of Environment Top of Page Copyright Disclaimer Privacy