Smooth Greensnake

Opheodrys vernalis

smgrnsnk_trj2012.jpg

small green snake coiled in straw
Tom R. Johnson
Species of Conservation Concern
Other Common Name
Smooth Green Snake
Family

Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Description

Smooth greensnakes have been declared extirpated from Missouri, but perhaps someone may one day rediscover this gentle snake in grassy meadows in the northern half of the state. The smooth greensnake is a slender, light green snake devoid of any markings, with a yellow or cream-colored belly. This rare species differs from the northern rough greensnake by having smooth scales, a smaller size, and a more northern distribution in Missouri. Upon death both species of greensnakes turn a pale blue.

Size

Length: 14 to 20 inches.

Habitat and conservation

This harmless snake struggled to escape, but it seldom attempts to bite when handled. It once lived in grassy habitats in the northern half of the state. Due to habitat destruction and insecticides, smooth greensnakes have not been seen in the state for many years. Several specimens were collected in north-central Missouri in the 1950s, but that was the last time this species was collected in our state. It has been declared extirpated from Missouri.

Foods

They feed mainly on insects, spiders, and slugs.

Smooth Greensnake dist map
Distribution in Missouri

Declared extirpated from Missouri. If it is ever rediscovered in our state, the most likely place would be in grassy meadows in the northern half of the state.

Status

A Species of Conservation Concern; extirpated from Missouri. Its nearest secure populations are to the north and east of Missouri.

Human connections

When humans apply pesticides to destroy insects, they often indirectly harm populations of the animals that feed upon insects. For this reason, and because humans have developed, altered or fragmented its habitat, this species has apparently entirely disappeared from our state. But we can still hope to rediscover them.

Ecosystem connections

This slender snake specializes in eating insects. It is a natural, nontoxic "pesticide." The green color functions as camouflage. Birds, mammals, and even other snakes eat this small snake.