On October 28, as I rounded the bend in the path where it enters Catch the Wind from Explore the Wild, I noticed two women with strollers looking intently down at the ground. I couldn’t see what they were looking at but I heard the word “snake” and immediately quickened my pace. The object of their attention was a tiny brown snake, a Rough Earth Snake (Virginia striatula) to be specific.
I’d run into one of these pleasant little snakes once before in 2008 when I saw a juvenile out in front of the Ornithopter, but hadn’t seen one since.
Rough Earth Snakes get to be about 12 inches in length, are overall brown but may have a dark head with a lighter band just to the rear of the head. This mark is more obvious in young snakes.
The “rough” in the Rough Earth Snake’s name comes from the “keels” or ridges that run the length of the scales on the dorsal, or upper, side of the snake’s body. Why refer to the keels on the scales when naming this snake? There is another closely related snake which looks very much like this one which has the name Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae) and, as you may have guessed, its scales do not have keels.