I’m as smooth and harmless as a baby’s skin, slithering through prairies, marshes and coastal wetlands in my sleek green scales. Camouflaged with the grass, I spend my days basking in the sunshine and hunting insects. The heart of my range is the Midwest, but I venture to the Northeast, Canada, and even isolated mountain meadows in the Southwest. Sadly, the prairies in Illinois are dwindling and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live without my habitat.
Help restore my home to its green beauty…like me.
The smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis) is bright green with smooth scales and a whitish belly. It is a social creature forming communal nests and hibernation sites with other smooth green snakes. It communicates using scent cues and males devote a lot of time trailing females.
The smooth green snake can be found basking in grasslands or beneath rotting logs. Its diet includes small insects such as grasshoppers, smooth-bodies caterpillars, small moths and the occasional spider. It is fast and streamlined to avoid predators, but if caught it will flail its tail to break free. Habitat destruction and insecticide usage on agricultural fields greatly depletes their numbers because they are dependent on insects and grassy areas.
DID YOU KNOW?
Females can produce between 1-14 egg per year; a communal nest can reach over 80 eggs.
Egg incubation time varies with latitude. Females will retain eggs internally or lay eggs shortly after fertilization depending on the temperature.
There are two color morphs of the smooth green snakes: bright green and brown. The brown green snake is often confused with the brown snake.
An adult smooth green snake can grow up to two feet long.
THINGS YOU COULD DO TO HELP...
Help the smooth green snake survive in your community.
You can become a snake ambassador, educate family and friends about the importance of snakes. Plant native species in your garden to increase habitat connectivity and be careful when mowing prairie gardens as snakes often bask at the edge of tall grasses. Do not release pet snakes into the environment because captive snakes can harbor many diseases and pathogens that are harmful to wild snakes. Try to keep house cats inside because they still possess an instinct to hunt and often target native species: songbirds, frogs and snakes.
Chicago Wilderness works with our lead partner, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, to drive smooth green snake conservation efforts. They, in turn, coordinate with numerous other organizations across the region. The smooth green snake conservation effort is part of the Chicago Wilderness Priority Species Focus Area.
Sources: Lincoln Park Zoo