Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Squamata     suborder Serpentes
Opheodrys vernalis -- Smooth Greensnake

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Cook County, IL; photo by Mike Redmer

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: Fifteen rows of smooth scales at midbody; divided anal plate.

Similar Species: Rough Greensnake.

Description: Slender green snake up to 85 cm TL with off-white belly. Newborn is dark olive-green; slightly older juvenile is gray-green.

Habitat: Moist prairie remnants, savannas, bogs, marshes, wet meadows, old fields, and vacant lots.

Natural History: Less arboreal than rough green snake, only occasionally climbing onto low bush branches. Active during the day April to October when it can be found in grass, in low bushes, and under rocks, boards, and other debris. Does not bite when handled, but sometimes feigns striking and voids feces and musk. Hibernates in ant hills, rodent burrows, and other retreats below ground. Mates in May and lays 5-15 thin-shelled eggs in June. Young 8-15 cm TL hatch in August. In northern populations, female incubates eggs internally for a time by basking, then lays them in a mound of rotting plants or in a sawdust pile, rotting log, or rodent burrow. Food consists of spiders, centipedes, millipedes, slugs, snails, and insects. Main predators are other snakes, birds, and mammals.

Status: Not abundant anywhere in the state. Reduced by habitat destruction and widespread use of insecticides that eliminate populations of food organisms.


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