Common Cantil

18 Surprising Facts About Cantil (Snake)

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The cantil is a non-venomous colubrid snake found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Here are some fascinating facts about this slender, quick-moving snake:


The cantil (Agkistrodon bilineatus) is a medium-sized, non-venomous snake belonging to the family Colubridae. It is native to the deserts and semi-arid regions of the American southwest and northern Mexico.

With its large eyes, slender body, and incredible speed, the cantil has adapted well to hunting prey and surviving in its dry, rocky habitat. Read on to learn more surprising facts about this desert-dwelling snake!

Facts About Cantil (Snake)

  1. The cantil is named after the Spanish word for “lamp.” This refers to the bright yellow stripes running along the length of its body.
  2. Cantils are opportunistic feeders. They will eat small mammals, birds, eggs, smaller reptiles, and large insects. Some of their favorite prey include rats, mice, and lizards.
  3. These snakes are incredibly fast runners. Cantils can reach speeds of around 13-15 miles per hour when chasing down prey or escaping predators. Their speed helps them catch quick-moving lizards and rodents.
  4. They have heat-sensing pits to detect prey. Cantils, like other colubrid snakes, have loreal pits on their heads. These special sensory organs allow them to detect minute temperature differences, helping them find warm-blooded prey in dark burrows.
  5. The cantil has very sharp rearward-curving teeth. These teeth allow it to seize prey and prevent escape. The teeth are also used to puncture eggs and drag prey to safe locations for swallowing.
  6. Cantils are primarily diurnal, or active during the daytime. They spend the hottest parts of the day in burrows and rock crevices and come out during the morning and late afternoon to hunt.
  7. Breeding occurs in early spring. After emerging from brumation (similar to hibernation), male cantils search for receptive females by using their tongues to detect pheromones.
  8. Females can store sperm and delay fertilization. This allows them to time egg laying for the most favorable conditions in late spring or early summer.
  9. The average clutch contains 5-12 eggs. The female lays the eggs in a burrow, rock crevice, rotting log, or area with loose soil. The eggs hatch after 6-8 weeks.
  10. Baby cantils are about 6-10 inches long at hatching. They are independent from birth and receive no care from their parents. Their bright coloration helps warn visual predators that they can be dangerous to eat.
  11. Cantils play an important role controlling rodent populations. By preying on rats, mice, and other small mammals, they help prevent overpopulation and disease transmission.
  12. When threatened, they may flatten their heads and bodies. This makes their heads appear more triangular and intimidating to potential predators. They may also vibrate their tails rapidly against dry leaves or gravel to mimic a rattlesnake.
  13. Cantils are very resistant to venom. Their blood contains compounds that render rattlesnake venom less toxic. This allows them to feed on small or baby rattlesnakes when the opportunity arises.
  14. They are adept climbers and swimmers. Using sharp claws and strong muscles, cantils can climb bushes, trees, and cacti with ease. They are also capable swimmers for crossing streams and reservoirs.
  15. Cantils help disperse seeds. By eating rodents and birds that have consumed seeds and berries, these snakes inadvertently spread undigested seeds through their feces as they travel and hunt.
  16. When threatened, they release a foul musk. Cantils have well-developed anal glands that produce an unpleasant, cloying odor. This helps deter predators tempted to bite them.
  17. Cantils may live over 20 years in captivity. Their average lifespan in the wild is likely 10-15 years. Their main causes of natural mortality are predation, starvation, and extreme weather conditions.
  18. They make interesting pets but require specific care. Cantils may be defensive at first but often become docile and tolerant of gentle handling when captive bred. They need large, secure enclosures with plenty of hiding spots.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of snake is the cantil?

The cantil is a medium-sized, slender, non-venomous colubrid snake species found in the deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico.

How does the cantil catch prey?

Cantils catch prey like lizards, rodents, and eggs using their lightning-fast speed (up to 15 mph), sharp rearward-curving teeth, and special heat-sensing pits that allow them to find warm-blooded prey.

What do baby cantil snakes eat?

Newly hatched baby cantils are independent from birth and immediately begin hunting small insects and invertebrate prey on their own to survive.

Why are cantil snakes important for their ecosystem?

Cantils help control populations of rodents and other small mammals as the apex predator of their desert habitat, preventing disease transmission from overpopulation.


The cantil is a fascinating snake that is well-adapted to surviving in hot, arid environments. With incredible speed, sharp senses, and defensive behaviors, these snakes thrive hunting small prey while avoiding larger predators. Learning surprising facts about cantils gives us a glimpse into the diversity of life specially designed for the desert. Their unique adaptations and importance as rodent hunters demonstrate the vital roles all wildlife play in balanced ecosystems.

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