It is a small, reddish snake with striking black and white cross-lines down the underside. It is typically around 30 cm. long. There is a sharp spine at the end of the tail, which gives the snake its name. It seems to remain in a small home range and may have adapted to suburban habitats like backyards. It feeds on slugs.
This is a secretive, nocturnal snake and hard to see.
They are found in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
We have seen it in our backyard in the East Bay Tri-valley area and have heard of other similar sightings. Our sightings have often been at night. Sometimes when some object in the backyard was picked up, a snake was discovered lying beneath it.
We have seen online reports from backyards in Martinez and Moraga.
Clifford & Karen recently (August 2014) sent in a sighting from the Fairway Glen neighborhood near Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
In 2010, this species was split into two - Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) and Forest Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia longicauda). The latter is found only on the peninsula and the two species may be found in proximity in San Mateo, Sonoma and Santa Cruz Counties.