Contia Tenuis – Sharp-Tailed Snake

Contia Tenuis - Sharp-Tailed Snake in the United States information

The sharp-tailed snake, Contia tenuis, is a small, almost worm-like snake found in the Western United States. The brown, orange or even pink snake has a pointed tail tip that is used to fixate prey.


The base color of the sharp-tailed snake can be anything from grey-brown, brown, copper-colored to orange and even pink. The body appears slightly rectangular. The top is usually lighter- or brighter-colored while the sides are almost always brown. The belly of the snake with characteristic lateral black and white stripes. The tail of the snake is pointed, leading to its common name sharp-tailed snake. The snake has smooth scales giving it a very shiny appearance.

Contia Tenuis - Sharp-Tailed Snake pacific purple grey brown snake in oregon, california and washington
A copper-colored sharp-tailed snake. Photo: Don Loarie


An adult sharp-tailed snake can reach a size of 12-17 inches (30-43 cm). Males are smaller than females.

brown snake on US west coast small
A brown sharp-tailed snake found in California. Photo: Greg Schechter

Hunting Behavior and Habitat

The sharp-tailed snake is a very secretive snake and spends most of its life hidden away from human sight. They either hide under rocks or tree stumps or dig into loose soil or clay. This snake feeds almost exclusively on slugs. It uses its pointed tail to prevent the snail from escaping and swallows the prey animal whole, head first. Most sightings occur when digging in gardens or on construction sides. When suddenly uncovered, the snake rolls up into a ball as a protective measure. In this position, the sharp-tailed snake can be confused with a blind snake. In California, they occur next to the Brahminy blind snake.


Sharp-tailed snakes are small snakes that are absolutely harmless for humans or larger pets. When it faces danger, the snake’s instinct is to roll up into a ball as a protective position. It is not an aggressive species that confronts attackers with a bite. Due to its small head, the snake would have trouble even biting through human skin. In the few cases where the snake might bite a human and success to penetrate the skin, the bite is still harmless.

Contia Tenuis - Sharp-Tailed Snake in the United States information
The beautiful sharp-tailed snake is absolutely harmless. Photo: Don Loarie

Sharp-tailed snake range in the USA

The sharp-tailed snake can be found in the Western United States in Washington, Oregon and California as well as in Western Canada.

Scientific classification of Contia tenuis

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Contia
  • Species: Contia tenuis

Other common names

In addition to Sharp-tailed snake or sharptail snake, Contia tenuis is commonly known as (gentle) brown snake, Oregon worm snake, purple-tailed snak, Pacific brown snake or Pacific ground snake.

Contia Tenuis – Sharp-Tailed Snake

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