Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: The smooth earth snake is a small — 7-10 inches (18-25.4 cm) –- somewhat heavy-bodied, brown to gray snake with smooth scales and a pointed snout. Most individuals have small black spots scattered on the back and sides. The belly is tan to whitish and is not sharply defined in color from the color of the sides (as in the worm snake, Carphophis amoenus, and red-bellied snake, Storeria occipitomaculata). Smooth scales differentiate this species from the similar rough earth snake (Virginia striatula) and brown snakes (Storeria dekayi). Individuals from the Coastal Plain are generally smaller than those from the Piedmont and mountains.

Range and Habitat: This species can be found in scattered locations throughout the eastern and central U.S. and throughout Georgia and South Carolina. Its geographic range includes much of the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and mountains, from southern Virginia to Louisiana, but the species is absent from peninsular Florida and most of the region of either side of the Mississippi River. This species is found in a variety of forested habitats with plenty of ground cover, but is most common in moist deciduous forests and edge habitats.

Habits: Smooth earth snakes are fossorial (live underground) and are most often found hiding beneath logs, leaf litter, or other debris. They feed on earthworms and soft-bodied insects. This species is viviparous, giving live birth to as many as 14 live young in the late summer.

Conservation Status: Smooth earth snakes are generally uncommon and not protected in most of their range. They are protected throughout the state of Georgia.

Pertinent References:

Willson, J. D. and M. E. Dorcas. 2004. Aspects of the ecology of small fossorial snakes in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 3:1-12.

Account Author: Patia M. Connell, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson