Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

Range for Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus) - south
Range for Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: Worm snakes are small — to 13 in (33.5 cm) — brown snakes with smooth shiny scales, tiny eyes, and a pointed tail tip. The body is generally light to dark brown on the dorsum and pink to white below. The belly coloration often extends slightly onto the sides of the body. Juveniles resemble adults in coloration.

Range and Habitat: Eastern worm snakes are found in the eastern U.S., from southern New England to central Georgia and west to the Mississippi River. West of the Mississippi this species is replaced by the similar western worm snake (Carphophis vermis). The eastern species is most common in the Piedmont but is also found in smaller numbers in the mountains and Coastal Plain of South Carolina. It is absent from most of the Coastal Plain of Georgia.

Worm snakes are seldom found far from forested habitats and are generally most common in deciduous woodlands. In the Coastal Plain, this species is apparently most common in forests adjacent to wetlands or cypress swamps. Like other small fossorial snakes this species is most often found in rotting logs, under rocks, in loose soil, or under leaf litter.

Habits: Worm snakes are among the most fossorial (living underground) snakes in the Southeast and are seldom seen above ground. They are most often encountered hiding beneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, or other debris. Worm snakes feed almost exclusively on earthworms and probably fall prey to a variety of birds, mammals, and other snakes. They probably mate in the fall and spring, and females lay up to 12 eggs in the early summer. Although harmless to humans, this species will often press its pointed tail tip against the captor.

Conservation Status: Worm snakes are common in our region and are not protected throughout most of it. This species is 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: J.D. Willson