Sharp-tailed Snake

Photo: Heidi Rockney
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Contia tenuis

What they look like

  • Sharp-tailed snakes are small snakes with an average length of 8 to 12 inches. They have smooth shiny scales that are gray or reddish-brown above and bars of black, pale green, gray, or cream underneath. Some individuals also have a yellow or red line along their upper sides. Their tail ends in a long sharp scale, hence their name.

All About Amphibians

Name: Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis)
Order: Snakes (Squamata)
Family: Common Snakes (Colubridae)

Fast Facts

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Sharp-tailed snakes can be found from central California to southern Vancouver Island and British Columbia. They can live in a wide variety of habitats, although they are most commonly found burrowed amidst the wetter soils and debris of woodlands, forests, and grasslands, oftentimes near streams or water.

What they eat

  • Slugs are the majority of their diet, although they can also eat slug eggs and slender salamanders.


  • In June or July, females search for a nest site 3 to 6 inches deep inside soil, grass roots, or rock outcrops. There they lay 3 to 8 eggs that will hatch in mid-autumn.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Some scientists believe that sharp-tailed snakes may use their sharp tails to help stabilize slugs for capture. 


  • Since they have such large populations, a wide distribution, and can adapt to a wide variety of habitats, sharp-tailed snakes are listed as “least concern."
  • View their status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
small brown salamander on bright green vegetation

Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington

Do you know where rattlesnakes live in our state? Or which salamander breathes through its skin? Explore the fascinating diversity of the 26 species of amphibians and 28 reptiles found in Washington state.