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A Plea for the Wellbeing of the Smooth Green Snake by Richard Bartlett on 2020-11-30 00:29:00


This terrestrial snake is easily differentiated form its rough-scaled cousin by the lack of keels on the scales.

I know Iíve talked earlier about this little snake, but I would like now to bring to the forefront the fact that the Smooth Green Snake, Opheodrys vernalis, is in trouble.

Dorsally, this small (adult at 15 to 24 inches), smooth scaled, slender, and beautiful snake is leaf green (grayish or yellowish in some small populations and duller immediately after hatching, immediately before shedding or after death when it is bluish). Ventrally it is yellow, white, or pale green belly. It is predominantly terrestrial and was once common to abundant in open grassy areas such as unkempt urban fields, meadows, pastures, and edge habitats. An oviparous species, eggs have a curiously shortened incubation period, hatching in from 4 to 24 days. Hatchlings are duller than adults.

In the east this is a snake of habitats that vary from coastal and other lowlands to montane meadows. The few western populations are found at high elevations. Overall, this snake is considered a boreal species. The northernmost populations are found in Canadaís Maritime Provinces westward to southern Saskatchewan. The southernmost populations were in nw Virginia and s Illinois. Westward of this unusual range there are 25 or 30 small disjunct populations known as far as e WY, ne UT, and the grasslands of e TX (this latter now thought to be extirpated). A population has even been documented in w Chihuahua, MX.

For reasons that have not yet risen above the speculative stage, entire populations of the smooth green snake have now disappeared, and in those now existing, the snake is becoming increasingly rare. With no smooth green snakes having been found in TX in recent years, this population is of special interest. It is wondered by some researchers whether those once found in TX might have been introduced rather than of natural occurrence.

So, why the overall smooth green snake reductions? Is it because of habitat modifications? Probably not. There are still a lot of grasslands, some very remote, throughout this snakeís one-time range.

Could it be dietary. Afterall, this is an insectivorous species, crickets, caterpillars, and an occasional spider being among its favorite prey items. The prevalent use of a wide variety of insecticides has reduced insect populations, this snakeís potential prey.

Is it due to toxic effect from the insecticides themselves? Possibly.

Whichever and whatever it is a problem that we must soon get a handle on lest there be no smooth green snakes left to concern ourselves with. Continue Reading "A Plea for the Wellbeing of the Smooth Green Snake"

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