Thursday, March 18, 2010

Smooth earth snake or rough earth snake?

I see one or the other in the garden frequently. This one was under a clay pot I moved yesterday. I've never been able to tell a rough earth snake (Virginia striatulata) from a smooth earth snake (Virginia valeriae). The field guide descriptions are so similar. This one certainly felt smooth. However, according to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, the rough earth snake often has "a pale band across the top of the head." It certainly seems like this one does (click image to zoom). I could ask one of my herp friends but I like to try to figure things out on my own first.

The field guide also says, "The smooth earth snake differs from the closely related rough earth snake by having usually smooth dorsal scales in 15 rows throughout the length of the body as opposed to keeled scales in 17 rows." Do tell! I'll have to count them next time. ;-)

Update: After looking at the definition of "keeled scales" I feel comfortable pronouncing this specimen a rough earth snake.


Anonymous said...

It is always exciting to see what kind of life is stirring in the yard this time of year. We haven't seen any snakes yet, but we did see our first lizard yesterday.

Carla said...

I've never seen any lizards here. Very strange. My folks have anoles and skinks all over their screened porch (must be some holes somewhere) and try to keep the cats away from them.