Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Squamata   suborder Serpentes
Farancia abacura -- Mudsnake

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Union County, IL; photo by Mike Redmer distribution map

Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only

NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.

Key Characters: Red and black bars on belly; hard, spurlike tail tip; back scales smooth and shiny; anal plate divided.

Similar Species: Copperbelly water snake.

Subspecies: Western mud snake, F. a. reinwardtii.

Description: Large (up to 150 cm TL) glossy black snake with alternating red and black bars on lower sides and belly, and small eyes. Male has a more bulbous tail and an area of smaller, keeled scales on the back above the vent.

Habitat: Shallow ponds, sloughs, and swamps containing rotting logs in the Coastal Plain of extreme southern counties. Often crosses roads on rainy nights.

Natural History: Mating takes place in midsummer and eggs are laid a few weeks later. Clutches of 4-104 eggs hatch in August or September. Hatchlings 18-24 cm TL resemble adults in coloration. Diet of this nocturnal snake consists entirely of amphibians: salamanders and their larvae, tadpoles, and frogs. Large wading birds and medium-sized mammals are the main predators, especially of the young. This snake has the startling defensive behavior of pushing its hard tail tip against the hand of someone holding it. This apparently is the "hoop snake" of folklore.

Status: Not listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois, but it is seldom seen even where populations are thought to be secure.


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