Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

June 4th. As I was walking up the final slope out of the woods on the Section B – Dam walk, I saw movement beside me on the trail. If it hadn’t been for the movement I would have kept walking. But when I looked down I saw a small snake slithering purposefully across the trail. It wasn’t paying any attention to me; it was as if it didn’t realize I was there.

I wanted a photograph but the snake wasn’t going to stop for me. So…

I pinned it gently with my snake hook. It was only about 9 to 10 inches long.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to get a good shot of it on the ground. If I lifted the hook, it was going to slither away. I figured I was going to have to pick it up if I wanted a better shot of its head. Now, I’ve never picked up a snake in my life but I was alone and it was pick up the snake or not get the shots.

It was a handsome little snake. A dry muscle in motion. I was surprised at how strong it was. It curled its body around my fingers to hang on. It didn’t even think about biting me – not that its mouth was big enough to get a grip on my fingers. It flicked its tongue intermittently to evaluate its surroundings. When I put it down on the edge of the trail, it slithered ‘out of sight’ under the scuppernongs. I could still see it and was fascinated by the fact that it stopped rather than slithering deep into the undergrowth.

Worm Snakes may be found in the eastern United States, from southern New Hampshire to central Georgia and west to the Mississippi River. They are most common in the Piedmont region and in smaller numbers in the mountains or the Coastal Plain in South Carolina and absent from the Coastal Plain in Georgia. 

Worm snakes are considered to be ‘secretive’. They live mostly underground and are seldom seen above ground. They are most often encountered hiding beneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, or other debris. 

In view of the fact that these snakes are rarely seen, I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to make the acquaintance of this interesting little creature.

- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)
- Fairfax County Public Schools. Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus) 

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