Cochise County: Beautiful Blue and White Mystery Snake Comes to Call

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At first I thought of it as a gray racer. The snake was racer-built, and the mystery snake’s outstanding blue and white striping was not clear in the fading light of early dusk. Not until the photos were uploaded to the computer and enlarged on the monitor did it become obvious the stunning little reptile–about two feet long but slender–was decorated in truly flashy fashion.

You never know what sort of wildlife is going to show up next on our Cochise County acreage.

In fact, we don’t know what sort of wildlife did show up last night. I’ve had zero luck identifying this remarkable reptile. It wasn’t alarmed when I first saw it, but moved like a racer once it realized I was in fact aware of it and showing interest in it; the snake is fast. The striping and general conformation come close to fitting some of the garter snakes and ribbon snakes, but not quite. This critter’s nose is too chisel-sharp and the light (white or almost white) central dorsal stripe is far too wide to fit either of those categories. (The top of the head is largely blue with darker swatches above and behind the eyes, but behind the head there’s a white stripe that runs the full length of the body and tail.)

The stunning mystery snake's head is mostly blue, with darker swatches above and behind the eyes.  Farther back, a white stripe begins and runs the length of body and tail.  The nose is chisel sharp

The stunning mystery snake’s head is mostly blue, with darker swatches above and behind the eyes. Farther back, a white stripe begins and runs the length of body and tail. The nose is chisel sharp

The striping pattern is unique; anyone who does know this species could never mistake it for anything else. First, the central dorsal white (or at least very light) stripe, flanked by narrower dark blue stripes, then a pair of super-narrow light stripes, and finally a pair of super-narrow dark blue stripes. Here’s hoping a Blue Striped Mystery Snake specialist sees this post and lets us know what we’re looking at here!

This shot shows the body striping clearly:  Central dorsal white, flanked by narrower dark blue stripes, then a pair of super-narrow white (or at least light blue) stripes, and finally a pair of super-narrow dark blue stripes.  Remarkable.

This shot shows the body striping clearly: Central dorsal white, flanked by narrower dark blue stripes, then a pair of super-narrow white (or at least light blue) stripes, and finally a pair of super-narrow dark blue stripes. Remarkable.

Other than the garter snakes and ribbon snakes, the closest color pattern (though it’s not really that close) is the Sonoran whipsnake…but it’s no whipsnake.

So…what is it? I’ve tried every Field Guide we have in the house plus a lot of different Google search wordings, up to and including “exotic striped snake worldwide”. So far, nothing. Nada. Zilch. At this point, enough hours of struggle are…enough. I do agree with the couple who overheard me talking about the reptile at a restaurant today and pointed out that it’s probably not a native species but a one-time pet that escaped or was released by its owner. Certainly, it’s more than beautiful enough to attract ownership–and fast enough to elude recapture if it once made it to the great outdoors. In fact, Pam took one look at the pictures and announced, “I want it!”

She knows that’s not going to happen, of course, but talk about love at first sight! So, if you happen to be the expert who knows what to call Blue Beauty, let us know.

Gray Racer Snake 009

Gray Racer Snake 001 (3)

Gray Racer Snake 007

11 thoughts on “Cochise County: Beautiful Blue and White Mystery Snake Comes to Call

  1. Nice try, Becky, and I appreciate it, but…I don’t think so. The general build of the eastern garter snake you found is mostly right. However:

    1. There’s a wider flair at the base of the skull in the garter snake pics (at that link, anyway) than in our little guy (or gal). From the right angle, the garter snake pics made me think “pit viper’ for just a split second, which Blue Beauty does not do at all.

    2. The garter snake’s nose is tapered but is still relatively blunt when compared to Blue’s “chisel tip” nose.

    3. The top (dorsal) central light stripe on Blue is MUCH wider than the equivalent stripe on the garter snake.

    4. All garter snakes, at least those for which I’ve located photos (which did include those you referenced, and yes, I did spend a fair amount of time studying the eastern garter snake pics) are overall much darker in base color than the whitish pattern Blue shows.

    5. Blue’s darker colored swatches above and behind the eyes are not seen in the garter snakes; the garters have uniform coloration atop the heads.

    I suppose it’s at least remotely possible that Blue is some sort of exotic variant of a garter snake, bred to look that way either by design or by freak accident, but the odds don’t really seem to tilt that way.

    You’re undoubtedly right that it traveled in with someone; I can’t imagine any snake looking as white-and-blue as that one would be an Arizona native.

  2. Thanks, Bill–a LOT!

    To our readers: With Bill’s clue that this is a patchnose snake, I did a few hours of online research, studied the Field Guides available here at home, and concluded that this individual appears to be, specifically, a Big Bend Patch-nosed (or Patchnose) Snake, Salvadora hexalepis deserticola…although I could be wrong about the subspecies. And surprise surprise (to me at least), it turns out to be a native Arizonan after all.

  3. IF it is a local snake – my herp friends are thinking its a Western Patch Nose w/mutant coloration.

    A third friend thinks its a big bend patchnose. He didn’t elaborate on the blue coloring. But when searching the net for “blue striped snake” only these pictures show up.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Sharon. From my “Googling around”, I had also come to the conclusion that if it’s not a Big Bend, then it’s most likely a Western–so I’m pretty much in agreement with your friends. I did find one picture of a Western Patchnose snake that looked pretty close. Definitely agree on the “mutant coloration”.

  5. Too bad you didn’t catch it for a herper to breed more! You just don’t see blue snakes too often. I definitely agree that this is a “color mutation”. Hope I see one; I live in Green Valley, AZ. A not-too-far-away neighbor !

  6. That would work; a blue snake in Green Valley ought to be a fairly colorful combination. 😀

    I’ve never been interested in catching a snake in my entire life. I see your point, but count myself fortunate to have grown enough personally over the years to become comfortable with most reptile encounters. To me, even attempting to catch it would have been a hostile act from the snake’s point of view. (Besides, this little guy moved fast, racer fast. Pretty sure it wouldn’t have been easy to catch, anyway.)

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