Smooth Greensnake

Opheodrys vernalis


small green snake coiled in straw
The smooth greensnake used to live in Missouri. It differs from the northern rough greensnake (O. aestivus aestivus) by having smooth scales, a smaller size and a more northern distribution in our state. It is a Species of Conservation Concern.
Tom R. Johnson
Species of Conservation Concern
Other Common Name
Smooth Green Snake

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


Smooth greensnakes have been declared extirpated from Missouri, but perhaps someone may 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.


Length: 14 to 20 inches.

Habitat and conservation

This species 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.


They feed mainly on insects, spiders, and slugs.

Smooth Greensnake Distribution 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.


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.

This harmless snake struggles to escape, but it seldom attempts to bite when handled.

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.