Snakes in Winter

(Above: Worm snake at Black Bear Overlook.)

I’ve seen six different species of snakes here at the museum during winter, eastern garter snake, black rat snake, rough and smooth earth snakes, brown snake and worm snake. The snake species and quantity encountered depend on their local abundance at the time. So far this season, brown snakes and worm snakes have been most frequently observed.

Shiny and smooth, worm snake.

Worm snakes are small, maxing out at about a foot or so. They’re shiny snakes with smooth scales. Their backs are brown and their bellies pink. Their back color can vary from light brown to almost black. The pink underparts may be nearly white to almost red and the belly color goes about a third the way up the snake’s sides.

Notice pink of belly on sides of this worm snake.

Worm snakes eat earthworms and some insect larvae. They spend much of their time underground, under or in rotting logs, or under yard debris. It’s not very often that you see one out in the open, but so far this season I’ve seen two on the path, both during warm moist days.

These little snakes are oviparous and lay their eggs in early summer, hatching in August or September.

Brown snakes too, are small snakes. They may reach 20 inches, but the ones I see are usually a foot to fifteen inches long. They’re typically brown but may be quite gray. Here at the museum they tend to be brown. Their scales are keeled and they never appear as shiny or smooth as a worm snake.

Brown snake adult, (about 12″ – 15″).

The local brown snakes have a light colored line running down their backs with, often, barely visible dark spots on either side of the stripe. Their bellies are white to pinkish but the belly color doesn’t make it to the sides of the snake.

Brown snake’s light dorsal stripe with darks spots on either side of stripe.

Brown snakes eat slugs, snails and earthworms. You can find them in backyards, vacant lots, forest understory, or under debris. They’re viviparous and bear 4 – 25 young in summer.

Threatening but harmless pose by brown snake.

So, if you happen to see a small brown snake in the middle of the path on a relatively warm and wet day, it just might be one of these two local residents. Neither snake can harm you.

Brown snake.

Enjoy your walk!

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