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That Small Snake Under My Flower Pot – Oh My!

Snakes and spiders have a way of surprising people, especially when they appear unexpectedly. Flower pots are great places to encounter both and are as good a spot as any to be surprised by one of the smaller snakes of our region – the Pine Woods Littersnake.

If you are so inclined to take a closer look, this small (10-12 inch) snake is pretty and more common than we realize. Known largely from the northern half of Florida, this snake can also be found from North Carolina to eastern Louisiana.

In south Mississippi, it lives in moist pinelands and urban landscapes, where it spends much of its time in leaf litter, under logs, mulch, and anything else that provides shelter and places to find prey.

Small frogs, salamanders, lizards, other small snakes, and insects are on this snake’s menu. Once grabbed in its jaws, these snakes deliver a mild venom through a pair of small fangs in the rear of their mouths. Known as a rear-fang snake, this arrangement allows the snake to subdue a struggling prey before it swallows it whole.

These small snakes are not aggressive to humans and will not bite. Apart from wanting to escape your grasp, Pine Woods Littersnakes are easily handled – a big help if you are interested in telling them apart from the other small snakes that can also be found here.

The Pine Woods Littersnake is uniformly yellow brown along the top, with a pale-yellow belly, and a prominent dark stripe running through the eyes. This latter feature distinguishes it from the other similar-looking small snakes of our region.

Being cautious with any snake is wise, as all snakes start out small, including our venomous species. But do keep an eye out for the smaller species of our area, enjoy the experience, and let them go on their way, for they are important elements of our ecosystems and deserve to be allowed to flourish.

Thanks to friends Nancy Price and Mike Murphy for being surprised by this cool little snake. Thanks to Terry Vandeventer for confirming the identity of this species.

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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