The Rare Sonoran Hook-Snake

Rare reptile sighted

A team of botanists has reported the first sighting in many years of the extremely rare and elusive Sonoran hook-snake at an undisclosed location in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last Monday. This is the first confirmed sighting in over 80 years of a species many biologists feared had become extinct.

Sonoran Hook-Snake

Unique biology

Hook-snakes are unique in having highly specialized scales. Most are narrow and spiny, while some are retractable and hook-shaped. They not only serve as protection, but also, in a remarkable example of mimicry, as a disguise, allowing them to escape detection by burrowing into the soil with just their last few inches protruding above ground. With the hook-scales extended, the blunt-tailed snakes look remarkably like the common fishhook cactus. When unwary mice or other small vertebrates approach, they are snagged with a quick lash of the snake’s tail.

Botanists photograph the rare Sonoran hook-snake, seen at lower left in the photograph.

First color photos

The botanists were only able to detect the snake because it was found on the surface. When approached, it quickly coiled into a ball, extending its hook-scales and hiding its vulnerable head underneath. “Except for the photographs, we left it strictly alone as it is protected by both state and federal laws with severe penalties for disturbing or harassing this highly endangered species,“ reported a spokesman for the group who asked that their names not be used to avoid any legal complications. These are believed to be the first color photographs ever taken of this secretive creature.

A surprising discovery

We hope our photos will add to the scanty scientific knowledge of this remarkable snake,” said another of the botanists. “We were thrilled to see the beautiful scales, but what astonished us all was the odor. When I moved in for a closeup, there was a distinct smell of baloney. Now don’t that beat all?!”


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Updated 1 April 2033