Western Smooth Earthsnake

Virginia valeriae elegans

western_smooth_earthsnake.jpg

Image of a western smooth earthsnake
The western smooth earthsnake is a nondescript little snake that lives in woodlands. It usually hides under rocks, logs, or leaf litter.
Jim Rathert
Other Common Name
Western Smooth Earth Snake
Family

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

Description

The western smooth earthsnake is a small, slightly stout, plain-colored snake with a conical head. The color is gray to light brown or reddish brown. It has no distinct markings. The belly is plain white or cream-colored.

Similar species: The rough earthsnake (Haldea striatula) is closely related and extremely similar in appearance. Western smooth earthsnakes have relatively smooth scales along the back, 6 labial scales along the upper lip, and 2 scales between the nostrils. Rough earthsnakes have keeled scales along the back (which make them feel rough), 5 labial scales along the upper lip, and a single scale between the nostrils.

Size

Length: 7 to 10 inches.

Habitat and conservation

This nondescript little woodland snake lives under rocks on rocky, wooded hillsides and in moist woods It is most often encountered under rocks, in leaf litter, or under other objects. It is most active at night, especially during warm, humid conditions, as it searches for food.

Foods

Foods include earthworms and, occasionally, slugs and some soft-bodied insects.

Western Smooth Earthsnake dist map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide except for the northwestern corner. It occurs mainly in the southern half of the state, with scattered populations in the north-central part of the state.

Life cycle

This species is normally active from April through October. Mating occurs during May and June and possibly in the autumn. Young are born in August through September, and there are from 2 to 14 in a litter. The newborns are about 3–4½ inches long.

Human connections

Although many people think of an animal’s value only in terms of its economic imprint on human affairs, the science of ecology has shown us that each component of the natural community plays a unique and important role. Valuing nature means valuing even the smallest plants and animals.

Ecosystem connections

These small predators control populations of the animals they consume. As with many other rather small predatory species, earthsnakes can be preyed upon themselves by larger animals, including mammals and predatory birds. Newborns are especially vulnerable.