The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Snake in the grass

My first reaction upon spotting this gorgeous critter in my back yard was “OH CRAP, NO!!!”

Not because I’m snake-phobic or that I was unhappy with it being on my property, but because the lawnmower I was pushing passed over it a millisecond before my brain processed the identity of the tiny brown squiggle in the grass.  I lifted the mower and killed the engine as fast as I could, and was relieved to discover that, other than probably being frightened out of its wits, the little snake was unharmed.

And what a find! The size of an earthworm, this glistening, sleek, brown beauty with a startling burnt-orange belly was a reptile I’d never before encountered. I ran inside with my prize so I could get my camera and document the event. “It’s an eastern red-bellied snake or something like that”, I said to my wife, who exclaimed over at the animal’s beautiful colours and markings.

I was pretty close: it’s a Northern Red-bellied Snake, one of three known subspecies of red-bellies (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata).

These little guys grow only to 12″ long; they feed on suitably small prey items, such as slugs, snails, earthworms and occasionally tiny frogs. Shy, secretive and gentle (this little one never tried to bite and remained quite calm during its time in my hand), they’re seldom seen despite being relatively common.

I set the snake back down in a safer (mower-free) patch of grass and managed only to fire off two more quick shots before the lawn swallowed it up and it disappeared from sight.

12 responses to “Snake in the grass

  1. George-Ann September 18, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Could it have been a ring-necked snake? The partial neck collar is the tip-off. The two species are closely related. We have both here in MN, and yes, these little snakes are totally charming.


    • TGIQ September 19, 2011 at 7:28 AM

      Hi George-Ann, from what I understand these little red-bellied snakes have three spots around the neck that can look like an incomplete or partial ring. I had a look at some other pictures online of the ring-necked snake and the coloration is a little bit different from the little guy I found.

  2. Lucy Corrander September 18, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    So pretty! – and sounds as if it’s a useful friend to have in the garden.

  3. James C. Trager September 18, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    We were out walking in the Nature Reserve a couple of years ago in August, and a female, closely followed by a male, were crossing a gravel road — The one and only time I’ve ever seen this species, and a “two-fer”!
    Its congener, S. dekayi is, as they say, “dirt common” here, the most abundant snake species in our region, even in the city of St. Louis.

  4. Jennie September 18, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Awww, what a beauty! Lucky for the non-mowing part!!

  5. A. Jaszlics September 19, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Lovely! And I’m very glad you saved him from the lawnmower. 🙂

  6. mthew September 27, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    I think I’m in love.

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