Wednesday, 31 August 2011
BLACK RAT SNACK
Otherwise known as the pilot snake, since it is believed to direct rattlesnake and copperheads to hibernation sites.
DESCRIPTION: a shiny black snake between 106cm (3 ½ ft) and an exceptional 256cm (8 ½ ft). Body shape in cross section is rectangular rather than round.
DISTRIBUTION: Central and eastern
USA, as far north as New York and Ontario, down to Louisiana and . Oklahoma
HABITAT: A Strong climber that may take up residence in tree cavities. Large numbers may congregate at traditional hibernation sites, often in the company of rattlesnake or copperheads.
FOOD: A constrictor, feeding on birds, small rodents and eggs.
BREEDING: Lays up to 36 eggs in decomposing plant material.
Known as the “meanest” American rat snake, this snake is often so aggressive that it never calms down, even after many years of captivity.
DESCRIPTION: 106-218cm (3 ½ -7ft). The brownish or bluish-black blotches are not heavily contrasted with the grey or yellowish ground colour. The head is often black, and red can be found on the skin between scales. There is a fair amount of variation in this species; however, the scales are keeled in all forms and the anal scale is divided.
DISTRIBUTION: from the
Mississipi Basin, west through Louisiana into central and southern . Texas
, from swamps through to drier rocky lands in the west o fits range. Often found dead on the side of highways due to its habit of basking on the road surface. USA
FOOD: A constrictor, feeding on small rodents, birds and eggs
BREEDING: the clutch of 6-28 eggs is laid from June to August.
GREY RAT SNAKE
This snake is often associated with oak woodlands, from where it gets its alternative name, the “oak” snake.
DESCRIPTION: 106-214cm (3 ½ -7ft). This species is strongly blotched with, unlike most other at snakes, similar markings to those of the juvenile. Blotches may be brown or grey with a ground colour varying between grey, pale brown or nearly white. Scales are weakly keeled and the anal scale is divided.
USA, form Georgia to Mississipi and in a band northwards to southern Indian and . Illinois
HABITAT: found in farmland, on rocky slopes and in woodland. Where the species overlap it has a tendency to hybridize (or intergrade) with the black rat snake.
FOOD: a constrictor, eating mainly small mammals, but it is also a favoured food of many hawks.
BREEDING: Clutches of less than 30 smooth-shelled eggs are common.
TRANS-PECOS RAT SNAKE
Easily recognize, since it is the most ”bug-eyed” snake within its range.
DESCRIPTION: 86-168cm (3 - 5½ ft), a yellowish olive to tan snake, with diagnostic dark H marl=kings along the back. The head is broad for a rat snake and the eyes are particularly large and protrusive with an extra layer of small scales beneath them.
DISTRIBUTION: Southern New Mexico through western
Texas down to northern Central Mexico, mostly associate with the . Chihuahuan Desert
HABITAT: primarily nocturnal in arid or semi and locations, especially in rocky areas at an altitude of between 500-1,500 metres (1,500-5,000ft).
FOOD: A constrictor feeding on rodent, bats, birds and lizards.
BREEDING: lays a clutch of 3-7 soft leathery eggs in summer.
This snake’s name refers to the H shape markings that run along the back of juveniles but normally fade by the time the snake is adult.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 160cm (5ft) but normally less than 120cm (4ft). Large with smooth scales, an overhauling snout and a short tail. Adults are yellow grey to brown, with a pair of dark brown shape stripes on the back; the belly is whitish or yellow but variably marked with black.
DISTRIBUTION: Southwest Europe, most of
Iberia, the Mediterranean coast of France and Minorca.
HABITAT: mostly diurnal, preferring stony habitats it can be often found in vineyards or around dry-stone walls. It can climb well and tends to be very aggressive if captured.
FOOD: Constrictor large prey, like a small rabbits, but east variously sized mammals, nestling birds and grasshoppers, when young.
BREEDING: Lays 6-12 eggs of about 5cm (2in) in length, in and around July.
FOUR LINED SNAKE
This is the longest snake in
Europe, but its name can give wrong impression as only the hatching and juvenile exhibits the four-lined pattern.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 250cm (8ft), but generally under 150cm (5ft). large with a long, slightly pointed, head and keeled scales that lend it a rather rough appearance. The most robust snake rough in its geographic region, it can also be distinguished by the presence of two preocular scales (directly in front of the eyes). Colour and pattern vary greatly, and the 4-lined markings fade as the snake get older, but the belly is mainly an olivish yellow.
DISTRIBUTION: Southeastern Europe into
Russia, Italy, Sicily, many of the Aegean Islands and south West Asia.
HABITAT: Prefers humid areas near water, climbing and swimming well, often in overcast conditions or at dusk.
FOOD: Constrictor, feeding on mammals, birds, eggs and lizards.
BREEDING: May lay a clutch of around 20 eggs.
The name fox snake originates from the fox-like odour that is associated with the fluid it discharge when threatened.
DESCRIPTION: 91-179cm (3-6ft) long. Heavily blotched on the body and when ground colour of yellowish to light brown; sometimes the head may be red-orange which can lead to its misidentification as a copperhead.
America, from southern Ontario south, between Indiana and . Nebraska
HABITAT: Found in marshland, grass prairie, farmland and in riverine woodland. This snake is abundant in the marshy areas and dunes of the great Lakes region and large numbers may congregate at hibernation sites.
FOOD: A constrictor , feeds on rodents, frogs birds and their eggs.
BREEDING: 6-29 leathery eggs are deposited form late June to early August.
TAIWANESE BEAUTY SNAKE
A common food item in the markets of southern
Asia, the Chinese also eat its gall bladder for reputed health-giving properties.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 2 metres (6ft) long, it has a dark stripe form its eye to the black of its head. The body is black or grey with a scatter of dark blotches and a yellowish stripe along the back.
DISTRIBUTION: found over much of East and
South East Asia.
HABITAT: a adaptable snake of farmland, woods village and fields. An aggressive snake when approached in the wild.
FOOD: Primarily rodents.
BREEDING: 6-10 eggs laid in dump soil or rotting wood.
The name comes from the standard response to any threat, which includes an elevated head stance and sounds that have something in common with the snorts and grunts of a bull.
DESCRIPTION: A large, 95-25 5cm (3-8 ½ ft) long, yellowish snake with black, brown or reddish-brown blotches that are heaviest in contrast at the head and at the tail.
The scales are keeled, which the belly is yellow with black spots and, unlike the rat snakes, it has a single anal scale.
DISTRIBUTION: Found in a band through central
USA, most northerly in Alberta and most southerly in eastern . Mexico
HABITAT: A snake of the prairies and plains but ranges into the desert. When alarmed bull snakes hiss loudly.
FOOD: Constrictor, eating rodents, birds and eggs.
BREEDING: Lays a clutch of up to 24 eggs in sandy soil or below large logs and rocks.
There are records of this snake being killed by its food; glossy snakes have been found dead, pierced by the protruding scale of a horned lizard.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 140cm (4 q/2 ft), a shiny cream snake with more than 50 separate brown body blotches. The scales are smooth, the belly is pale and unmarked, and the pupil of the eye is slightly elliptical.
Nebraska and Kansas through West Texas and into . Mexico
HABITAT: Nocturnal or crepuscular burrowers in mostly sandy areas. When alarmed the tail is vibrated to deter predators.
FOOD: Constrictor, feeding on small rodents and lizards.
BREEDING: Up to 24 eggs, the hatchlings are little carbon-copies of the adults.
SINALOAN MILK SNAKE
The bane milk snake came from the belief that they sucked the milk from the udders of cows. One of the 23 subspecies of the milk snake, this snake was only described by scientists in 1978.
DESCRIPTION: 102-122cm (3 ½ -ft). Head black, with some mottling of white, usually around the snout. The first black ring usually touches the angle of the jaw and creates a B shape on the throat; the red scales are not tipped black while the white scales are. There are between 10 and 16 red rings that are about three times the width of the black-white-black rings. All the body rings completely encircle the snake.
DISTRIBUTION: Throughout Sinaloa, extending into neighboring Mexican states.
HABITAT: Little is known yet of this snake’s natural history other than that it is found below 1,000 metres (3,000ft) and often around cornfields.
FOOD: Small rodents, lizards and perhaps some invertebrates.
BREEDING: Clutches are usually small, between 2 and 16.
HOUNDURAN MILK SNAKE
It is thought by many that the striking “tri-colour” markings of milk snakes evolved originally as a form of mimicry of the highly venomous coral snake.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 120cm (4ft).the head is black but with a distinct yellowish band on the snout and a second band that broadens as it makes its way from the top of the head .It has red-orange scales that may or may not be tipped with black the body rings of red, black and yellow entirely encircle the body: there are 13-26 red body rings some specimens may lack yellow rings and have a generally dark or tangerine appearance.
DISTRIBUTION: Mush of
Honduras, Nicaragua and possibly northeastern . Costa Rica
HABITAT: found at lower elevations, usually located under rotting logs or stump, It is most active at night.
FOOD: able to subdue and eat a variety of other snakes, it also feeds on small lizards, mammals and birds.
BREEDING: As with other milk snakes the eggs are remarkably long and cylindrical; deposited in rotting substrate, they hatch out around August.
PUEBLAN MILK SNAKE
’s milk snake, this is the most recently discover milk snake (1983). Dixon
DESCRIPTION: 71-91cm (2-3ft). A distinctive snake, with board white body bands and a white mottled snout. The tail has around 5 black and white bands with no red-orange bands the average body rings are 16 white and red bands and 32 black. About half the red bands are not complete on the underside, while there is no black tipping of the white scales.
DISTRIBUTION: Restricted to a small area of southern
HABITAT: Prefers arid areas at reasonable elevation, from 1,500 metres (5,000ft).
FOOD: Small rodents, snakes and lizards are the most common prey items.
BREEDING: Rarely deposited more than 14 elongated eggs, which have an incubation period of 6-9 weeks.
SCARLET KING SNAKE
If you can remember the old rhyme, “red and yellow kill a fellow…” then you can be sure that the snake you are identifying is or is not the highly venomous coral snake but the harmless scarlet king snake.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 68cm (2 ¼ft). a mimic of the eastern coral snake, but the tip of the snout is red and the yellow rings are separated from sometimes be white; all bands generally continue across the belly.
DISTRIBUTION: North America, from southeastern
Virginia through much of the eastern USA down to the tip of , west to the Mississppi. Florida
HABITAT: Especially fond of pine woodland, hiding behind bark or underneath logs and often wintering in trees stumps.
FOOD: A constrictor feeds on lizards, snakes, baby rodents, fish, insects and earthworms.
BREEDING: 2-15 eggs are laid in June or July.
GREY BANDED KING SNAKE
Was once considered to be a rare snake, but is actually quite common, its nocturnal habits accounted for the fact that it was rarely seen.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 150cm (5ft). Has quite a distinct head shape, grey with black lines or dots. Its pattern consists of a series of white edged, red-centered, black blotches. The rest of the body being grey. There are between 9 and 39 black blotches or saddles, giving an indication of how variable a snake this can be. A distinctive characteristic is the relatively large eye with its silvery-grey iris.
DISTRIBUTION: Southern Texas and into northern
HABITAT: Partial to arid to semi-humid habitats ranging from desert through to mountains. Nocturnal and secretive, once believed rare but now known to be abundant, it is able to pass an evil-smelling musk when captured.
FOOD: Almost exclusively feeds on lizard, but will occasionally take small rodents.
BREEDING: small clutches of eggs are generally deposited beneath stones.
CALIFORNIA KING SNAKE
Like many of the king snakes, this snake is relatively immune to the venom od rattlesnakes.
DESCRIPTION: The ground colour for this snake is brown or black with stripes or rings of white or cream. The ringed form is the most common throughout its range.
DISTRIBUTION: Range down the west coast of
America from Oregon down through Baja California, and its eastward boundaries run from Nevada down into . Mexico
HABITAT: A wide range of habitats, from rivers and grassland to desert or forest. Mostly diurnal, but more crepuscular in arid areas.
FOOD: A constrictor, eating eggs, lizards, birds, amphibians, rodents and snake, including rattlesnakes.
BREEDING: 6-24 eggs in a clutch that may be deposited in rotting logs.
FLORIDA KING SNAKE
A snake hat counts the highly venomous copperhead and coral snakes as choice prey items.
DESCRIPTION: 90 -176cm (3-6ft). A beautifully marked snake, with most scales brown edged with cream, and usually with small light bands present across the back.
DISTRIBUTION: Primarily found in southern
Florida, but intergrades with the eastern king snake in much of the rest of . Florida
HABITAT: Mostly diurnal, but may forage more actively at dawn and dusk; usually in wetter areas, but may be found in a wide variety of habitats.
FOOD: A constrictor, readily taking any snake of a similar size or smaller than it, otherwise eats rodents and eggs.
BREEDING: Up to and above 20 cylindrical eggs are laid in late May.
This is the largest
North America snake; it old common names like blue snake, originated from its use in carnivals by snake charmers.
DESCRIPTION: 150 – 250cm (5-8ft). Large beautifully shiny, blue–black snake. Chin and side of head may be slightly red or orange-brown scales mostly smooth, with a single anal scale.
DISTRIBUTION: divided into two subspecies. The eastern, primarily in the
Florida panhandle, and the Texas, in arid southern Texas, into eastern . Mexico
HABITAT: Defends itself by flattering its neck vertically, hissing and rattling its tail, through it rarely bites if caught. Often to be found in the burrows of the gopher tortoise.
FOOD: Not a constrictor, its varied diet includes small mammals, birds, frogs and snake, most impressively venomous species like cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.
BREEDING: Lays 5-12 lathery eggs; hatchings emerge from late July through to October.
Named for its ability to disappear into undergrowth at, apparently fantastic speeds.
DESCRIPTION: 50 -180cm (1½-6ft). Has developed into a variety of subspecies and hybrids (or intergrades); exhibiting a range of coloration through this, the nominate species, is black. Generally the scales are smooth and the anal scale is divided. The specifically the lower preocular scale wedged between the upper labial scales. Broad headed, slim with large eyes adults are usually plain-coloured above, while the young are blotched.
except parts of the extreme north and southwestern central states. USA
HABITAT: An extremely fast-moving snake, the racer is also partially arboreal. Diurnal, hunting with head characteristics held above the ground. Mainly absent from high altitudes and very dry locations.
FOOD: Not n constrictor. Eats rodents, birds, lizards, snake, frogs and insects.
BREEDING: 2-31 eggs laid in June to August.
WESTERN WHIP SNAKE
The snake most often encountered in Mediterranean holidays areas, although any sightings are likely to be very short as this snake “whips” into brush and out of view.
DESCRIPTION: Maximum length 200cm (7½ft), but more normally 150cm (5ft). Heavily marked in irregular crossbars or totally black above, otherwise yellowish becoming paler on the belly with occasional black spotting. The upper markings become striped longitudinally towards the tails, while the fairly prominent eye has a round pupils.
DISTRIBUTION: Northern Spain, much of
France, Switzerland, Sardinia and . Italy
HABITAT: Diurnal and largely terrestrial, a fast and agile snake locating prey by sight. Frequents a variety of mainly dry habitats below 1,500 metres (5,000ft).
FOOD: not a constrictor. Eats small rodents nesting birds, snake (including vipers), lizards, frogs and grasshoppers.
BREEDING: 5-15 eggs laid in a clutch.
GREEN WATER SNAKE
Easily mistaken for the highly venomous cottonmouth.
DESCRIPTION: A heavy-bodied snake between 76-127cm (2½-4ft). Identification is difficult, few markings being distinguishable on the greenish or brownish back, but best recognized by row of scales that are present between the eye and the lips scales.
USA, primarily in the . Mississippi Valley
HABITAT: A diurnal species, often found basking on low tree limbs near water. They can be found in great numbers in undisturbed areas, normally near quiet limbs.
FOOD: Primarily eating small fish such as minnows.
BREEDING: Live-bearing; perhaps over 100 young produced in a litter.
SOUTHERN WATER SNAKE
Usually the most placid of the water snakes, often only regurgitating their last meal upon any assailant before making their escape.
DESCRIPTION: 61-152cm (2-5ft). Can be identified by the dark stripe from the eye to the angle of the law, spots at the side of the belly and dark bands across the back. Colours usually darken with age, even to black, but can vary between grey, tan and red with red, brown or black bands.
USA, in a coastal band from North California to . Alabama
HABITAT: Found in virtually every fresh water habitat from slow moving streams through to marshes and even in to saltwater regions.
FOOD: Salamanders, frogs and small fish.
BREEDING: Live-bearing; litters of up to 57 young are born from June to August.
There are some populations of black (melanistic) grass snakes and some individuals that play dead when attacked.
DESCRIPTION: Normally up to 120cm (4ft) but sometimes as much as 200cm (6½ft). Most specimens have a characteristic collar of yellow or white; the body is olive-grey, greenish to even silvery-grey with dark blotches and stripes.
DISTRIBUTION: Virtually all of Europe below the Arctic Circle, across into
Russia and south into Iran and . Iraq
HABITAT: Marshes, meadowlands, farmland and hillside adjacent to rivers, Famous for its habit of avoiding the contents of its anal gland when handled and can even feign death when threatened.
FOOD: Feeds mainly on frogs and toads, but also takes fish, tadpoles, news and even small mammals.
BREEDING: Females can retain their eggs for up to 2 months; shortening the incubation period has allowed this snake to extend its range north. Deposits its eggs in decomposing plant material; often more than one female will use a single nest site.
An extremely aquatic snake, spending more of its time is water than any other European water snake.
DESCRIPTION: Up to around 00cm (3 ½ft). It has a rather small, pointed head, but can also be distinguished by the pattern of dark square markings that lead the snake its name. The ground colour can vary between grayish and brownish-green; some populations may be black or even yellow.
DISTRIBUTION: Southeastern Europe to
Afghanistan, Pakistan and even into . China
HABITAT: Always found close to or in water. May climb small trees, but id disturbed will immediately drop into the water to escape.
FOOD: Almost totally piscivorous but will take amphibians.
BREEDING: Having mated after hibernation, the females lay up to 24 eggs under rotted logs or stones.
This snake can be confused with a viper due to the presence of zigzag markings on the back, but if seen in water it will almost always be safe to assume it is viperine snake.
DESCRIPTION: Normally reaches around 70cm (2½ft) in length. Usually exhibits some dark markings on the small, but broad, head. Individuals are usually Brown or grey with a pattern of dark markings down the back and dark blotches on the side, mainly with light centres.
DISTRIBUTION: Southeastern Europe and parts of
HABITAT: Diurnal, chiefly found in or around water, preferring weedy ponds and rivers. Dives readily when disturbed; if cornered will strike repeatedly, but with its mouth closed.
FOOD: Eats frogs, toads, newts, tadpoles, fish and even earthworms.
BREEDING: 5-20 eggs are laid in June to July and hidden under rocks, in same or in decaying vegetation.
COMMON GARTER SNAKE
The most widely distributed snake in
DESCRIPTION: 46-124cm (1½-4ft) long. Characteristically has 3 yellowish lateral stripes and a double row of spots between the stripes that may actually predominate in some individuals. However, this snake is extremely variable; some specimens are virtually stripe less, black, green, brown and olive being among the ground colours individuals may exhibits. The scales are keeled and, like most garter snakes, it is distinguish from the water snakes by having a single anal scale.
DISTRIBUTION: Southern Canada to the Gulf coast and west to
California, only missing from the desert regions of southwest North America.
HABITAT: A common snake found in woodland, marshes, along rivers and drainage ditches and even in city parks.
FOOD: Mainly eats amphibians, tadpoles and earthworms.
BREEDING: Live-bearing, producing 7-85 young between June and October.
The rarest snake in
, but common throughout much of the rest of its range, even taking up residence in gardens. England
DESCRIPTION: Usually up to 60cm (2ft). It has a small heads, small eyes with round pupils and a cylindrical body. Usually grey but grading up to reddish, with a slightly darker head, a strong stripe from the neck through the eye and a series of irregular small dark spots on the back.
DISTRIBUTION: Much of Western Europe except southern
Spain, much of Britain and northern Scandinavia. To the east it continues into Russia, Asia Minor and northern . Iran
HABITAT: Diurnal, through secretive. Prefers dry habitats like sandy heathland, bushes slopes and embankments.
FOOD: Relies heavily on a diet of lizards, through will also take small snakes, mammals and insects.
BREEDING: live-bearing 2-15 young in a litter.
RED-SIDED GARTER SNAKE
The famous inhabitant of
’s snake dens. In areas where hibernation sites are at a premium, thousand of snakes gather at prime sites. Canada
DESCRIPTION: Grows to about 60cm (2ft) long. Black in colour with a strip of yellow along its back and two yellow stripes on its side. It gets its name from the red bars between the back and side stripes
DISTRIBUTION: Much of
Canada and the . USA
HABITAT: In the northern part of its range hibernates for much of the years. Sometimes climbs low bushes to get to bird’s nests.
FOOD: Amphibians, worms, the odd rodent and baby birds.
BREEDING: In communal hibernation sites these snakes can have an extraordinary mating system. In spring mating balls are formed with up to 30 males trying to mate with one female. Some males exude the same pheromones from their skins as females, so they distract the order males in the ball and have a better chance to mate. Live bearers, producing up to 15 young.
EGG EATING SNAKE
Renowned for its ability to swallow eggs far greater in diameter than that of the snake itself.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 105cm (3½ft). a thin snake with a surprisingly small head, considering its diet. Normally brownish, but occasionally grey or black, with a black “chain” of diamond-shaped markings along the back. The scales are heavily keeled on the back and serrated on the sides.
DISTRIBUTION: North east Africa, southern Arabia, west to
Gambia and down to . South Africa
HABITAT: partially arboreal, even using birds’ nests it has just robbed as resting places. It is found in a variety of habitats apart from rain forest or desert. When molested this snake mimics the defensive actions of venomous snakes, either rasping its scales or puffing up, hissing and feigning aggressive strikes.
FOOD: Solely feeds on eggs, using not teeth but projection from its vertebrae to break o[pen the swallowed egg before regurgitating the drained shell.
BREEDING: Up to 18 eggs in a clutches.
WESTERN HOGNOSE SNAKE
Farmed for its defensive displays, which range from bluff through t full-scale death-feigning.
DESCRIPTION: Up to 90cm (3ft). A heavy-bodied snake with thick neck and distinctively upturned nose. Colours range from cream to brown, with heavy light to dark brown blotching along the body and characteristic black markings on the underside of the tail.
DISTRIBUTION: Southern Canada ranging south in a wide band through much of central
USA and down into northern . Mexico
HABITAT: Prefers open land, prairies, sparse woodland, farmland, floodplains and into semi-arid and canyon areas. Uses its broad snout to burrow and its enlarged teeth in holding prey.
FOOD: Mildly venomous. Toads are this snake’s staple food, but it will also take frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes and reptile eggs.
BREEDING: A clutches of 4-23 eggs is laid.