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C. tenuis is distributed through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as British Columbia, Canada: Southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia around Victoria, British Columbia, and a newly discovered site in Pemberton, British Columbia.
The sharp-tailed snake has an average total length (including tail) of 12–18 in (30–46 cm) as an adult. It is distinguished by its sharp tail spine, which is the protruding tip of the last tail vertebra. The spine is not toxic and cannot injure humans. Rather, the tail is used to stabilize small prey, such as slugs, for consumption. The dorsal surface ranges in color from grayish brown to brown to brick red, with bubble-gum pink and peachy-orange specimens occasionally found. The ventral surface is a striking series of black and white crossbars.
The sharp-tailed snake is a shy, secretive creature most often encountered under rocks and logs, and rarely to never found in the open. It is able to persist in urban areas where appropriate cover can be found. It is known to burrow into soft soil or cracks in the clay, and may be encountered by people who are digging in the garden or removing concrete. When encountered, the sharp-tailed snake may roll into a ball and remain still. It can be mistaken for a worm by the casual observer.
The diet of C. tenuis is largely restricted to slugs and eggs of slugs.
The adult female C. tenuis lays 4–16 eggs in the summer, underground or in a burrow. Each hatchling is 3–4 in (7.6–10.2 cm) in total length (including tail).
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- Stejneger L, Barbour T (1917). A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Contia tenuis, p. 91).
- Species Contia tenuis at The Reptile Database . www.reptile-database.org.
- Wright AH, Wright AA (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates, a Division of Cornell University Press. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes). (Contia tenuis, pp. 156–160, Figure 49, Map 18).
- "Sharp-tailed Snake". The Reptiles of British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Environment. www.bcreptiles.ca. 
- Atkinson, Cathryn (2013). "Rare snakes found in Pemberton: Proposed Pemberton development area home to snakes on federal list of species at risk". Pique. August 15, 2013. www.piquenewsmagazine.com. 
- South Coast Conservation Program Regional Dialogues on Land Use Planning for Species and Ecosystems at Risk. Proceedings Fall 2013. 
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- Contia tenuis - Description, Risk Status.
- Contia tenuis - Sharp-tailed Snake - Description, Pictures.
- Baird SF, Girard C (1852). "Descriptions of new species of Reptiles, collected by the U. S. Exploring Expedition under the command of Capt. Charles Wilkes, U. S. N. First part.—Including the species from the Western coast of America". Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 6: 174–177. (Calamaria tenuis, new species, p. 176).
- Baird SF, Girard CF (1853). Catalogue of North American Reptiles in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Part I.—Serpents. Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution. xvi + 172 pp. (Contia mitis, new species, pp. 110–111).
- Schmidt KP, Davis DD (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp., 34 plates, 103 figures. (Contia tenuis, pp. 196–197, Figure 62).
- Smith HM, Brodie ED Jr (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3 (paperback), ISBN 0-307-47009-1 (hardcover). (Contia tenuis, pp. 162–163).
- Zim HS, Smith HM (1956). Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to Familiar American Species: A Golden Nature Guide. Revised Edition. New York: Simon and Schuster. 160 pp. (Contia tenuis, pp. 79–80, 156).