Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Smallest snakes

Just thought I would share something I found in my backyard today.

Rough Earth Snake (Virginia striatula)

Same snake as above with a quarter for size reference.

Finding this little guy reminded me of two previous encounters this year with miniscule snakes.

In May when we visited Little River Canyon National Preserve, I found this one on the trail as we hiked our way out of the canyon from an afternoon of fishing.

Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

Back in April, Kelly found this one under the bark of a rotting log at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.

Mississippi Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus stictogenys)

When Kelly found the Ringneck, I remember saying "I think that's the smallest snake I've ever seen." Little did I know I would soon find two more that would challenge it for the title. This is apparently my year to find tiny snakes.

Although the snakes we found were actually juveniles, these three species are all diminutive as adults. The Ringneck is the giant of the group with the potential to reach a whopping 14". The Earth Snake and the Worm Snake will be adult size at around 7" and may grow to 11".

Just in case you're wondering what such a tiny snake might eat- all three species eat earthworms. The Ringnecks are also known to enjoy a salamander meal occasionally, but most salamanders would be too large for them to eat. There are plenty of salamanders out there that would readily make a meal of the little guy in the photo above.

Sometimes the wonders of nature don't have to be big to be awe inspiring. When I pause to think about the tiny heart, lung (that's right, singular- they only have one fully developed and functional lung), and other organs that are carrying out the same physiological processes in those miniature serpents that are going on in my own body...

I am truly amazed.


  1. I could have guessed what your entry would be...ok, I will say that this "small" snake beats the other ones hands down! Although, it could be a lot sneakier!!

  2. Snakes are sneaky no matter their size.

  3. I one time followed a "baby" copperhead (about the size and thickness of a pencil) into some blueberry bushes to see where it was going only to find an adult about the thickness of my wrist sitting in the same bush. It was almost an unpleasant day for me. Thanks for the post.

  4. Truly amazing, mainly because I'd probably miss 'em when walking by...

  5. Jay
    Bring some of those little snakes alone with you to Bear Creek, and we can use them to entice the smallies to hit----looking forward to the trip

  6. Kev2380, thanks for stopping by.

    Kiwi, baby Copperheads are huge compared to these little ones. I've seen my fair share of them too. Glad you didn't accidentally find mom the wrong way, and as you probably learned (if you didn't already know)- Copperheads aren't all that aggressive. They would much rather remain hidden than give away their camouflage.

    Pat, I'm not sure how I saw the Worm Snake on the trail, but the other two were found under cover when looking for them intentionally. I've probably walked by tons of them too.

    Bill, I would never use bait... when fly fishing... especially not a snake. I wouldn't be able to a put a friend on a hook. It just wouldn't be right.

  7. I can remember as a kid spending hours turning rocks over in search of ringneck snakes. We would all have collections of snakes at home in our little aqauriums until they got taken away at school or mom made you turn them loose. Probably not an ecologically friendly practice now that I look back but it did instill a respect for snakes in me that I still carry today.

  8. HPFF, I think we all did some of that ecologically unfriendly collecting as children. I wouldn't care to admit how many fireflies met their death in a jar thanks to me. If it taught you to respect nature as an adult, it really wasn't all bad. I actually think kids need those sort of experiences, but most children these days are sorely deprived.

  9. Pretty cool stuff... great photos! It's snakes like these that will help me get over my suspicions...something i am working on :-)

  10. Sanders, snakes aren't so bad. Most are pretty harmless. These little guys couldn't hurt you unless you happen to be an earthworm. There are certainly some dangerous (venomous) snakes out there, but give them their space and you'll be fine... the same precautions you would take around any wild animal. Glad to hear you're working on your "suspicions."

  11. I have Ringneck Snakes in the ten acre woods. Cool snake.

  12. Nice post Jay. I never knew small snakes existed. I'll stick with worms though...ok?

  13. Cofisher, fine by me... but I thought you were supposed to be a fly fisher... San Juan Worms, right?

  14. My moms flower beds and garden were always full of worm snakes. As kids we spent may an hour with these creatures and on one occasion one even made it into the bath tube. My mom at the time was not amused. I bet I could go find a few even today.

  15. Hmmmm...I think I like my snakes nice and big so I can spot them easier! Thank you for sharing these little guys up close and personal ~