Pine Woods Snake Rhadinea flavilata

Scotland County, NC
Photo by Sam Cohen

Description: This is a pretty, reddish or golden brown snake with smooth iridescent scales. It has a dark stripe through the eye bordered by lighter stripes that can stand out more than the dark one. Occasionally dark pigment variations on the scales cause the appearance of a faint stripe down the back and stippling on the flanks can suggest stripes there as well. The ventrals are pale white, yellow or greenish and the top of the head is darker than the rest of the dorsum. The rich consistent coloration and small size makes this snake easy to identify.

Description: This is a small snake that generally reaches only 10 to 12 inches with the record being just less than 16 inches. Males tend to be a bit smaller than the females. Young Pine Woods Snakes look just like the adults and are about 4 inches when born.

     The Pine Woods Snake has 17 smooth mid-dorsal scale rows and from 120 to 133 ventrals. The subcaudals number from 63 to 76 and the anal plate is divided. Males often have keels on the scales on either side of the anal plate.

Biology and Behavior: Pine Woods Snakes are rear-fanged snakes with mildly toxic saliva, but the venom in no way poses any threat to humans. When uncovered, Pine Woods Snakes will scurry for immediate shelter and thrash a bit if picked up. They seem to never bite, though, like many snakes will excrete pungent musk.

     Pine Woods Snakes are nocturnal creatures with a limited hunting area. They generally hide in and around logs and stumps and tend to avoid exposure. Their most active months are in the summer and early fall where they may be seen actually crossing roads. Otherwise, greater numbers of theses animals have been recorded in the spring.

     These snakes prey upon small anurans, salamanders, lizards and occasionally snakes.

     Little is known about the breeding habits of these animals, but captive specimens have laid eggs in late spring (June) to mid summer (August) suggesting an early spring or fall breeding. Eggs number 1 to four.

     Range and Locality Data:  Nationally, Pine Woods Snakes range from coastal and southeastern North Carolina south along the coast to Palm Beach County, Florida and west along the Gulf coast to eastern Louisiana. Some areas in this snake’s range have gaps, but this may be due to its secretive nature and a lack of ambition for finding them. In the coastal plains, records come from isolated localities as far north as Dare County, North Carolina, but get denser as you move south along the coast and occur farther west, especially in South Carolina.

     These snakes appear to be quite common locally, but the localities can be sparse. Typical habitat is pine flat woods and occasionally hardwood hammocks that border wetter habitats. Many records are from pine wood habitats along swamps and bogs.

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