Reptiles

Amphibians

Midwestern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus helenae)

Description

This small, wormlike snake is identified by a plain dark brown dorsal coloration with a plain, light pink belly. Its snout and tail are very pointed. It rarely grows longer than about 25cm (9.8 inches).

It is not easily distinguished from the Western Wormsnake, which has a darker dorsal coloration and brighter pink belly. In the Midwestern Wormsnake, the pink belly coloration extents up to the 1st or 2nd row of dorsal scales, whereas on the Western Wormsnake the pink belly coloration extents up to the 3rd row.

In this species, the young are darker than adults.


Habitats

This species is rarely seen exposed. It is fossorial; burrowing in moist soil or under the leaf litter.


Habits and Life History

Due to the preferred habitat of this small snake, it is difficult to study in a natural setting. Human encounters usually occur during excavation work, gardening, or when picking up debris.

This species is thought to mate in the fall. Females retain the sperm and fertilize their eggs in the Spring. The eggs are likely laid sometime in early summer, and hatching in the late summer.


Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species burrows through loose soil in search of soft-bodied prey, especially earthworms. It uses a "grab-and-eat" technique for subduing and swallowing its food.


Temperament and Defense

This species is secretive and will never feel completely comfortable exposed. If one happens to be "turned up" by a predator, their first defense is a small size and dark dorsal coloration. Upon getting flipped over, their bright pink belly acts as a second line of defense; a brightly colored symbol of danger (in this case a bluff!).

When handled, this species is not known to bite in defense, but will almost certainly expel excrement and a foul-smelling musk. One may try to burrow through fingers or even poke a handler's hands with its sharp tail.


Conservation

This species is currently listed as a species of Special Concern by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. As much as possible, specimens should be left alone. Unfortunately, the most likely chance of even seeing one is during gardening or excavation work; where they are vulnerable to continued human disturbances. In such cases, I would suggest contacting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for further instructions.

Although this species seems fairly secure globally, it is considered one of the rarest of snake species found in Arkansas and vulnerable to extirpation. Because of their secretive nature and small size, preservation of existing habitat is the best protective measure.

UPDATE: During the 2005 AHS Spring Field Trip, two additional specimens were found and collected. These records confirmed that the species also occurs in Lee and Phillips County. Local personnel from the forest service indicated that they regularly found this species while working, especially underneath railroad ties that were being moved.


State Distribution and Abundance

This species is found only in the northeastern to central counties that border the Mississippi River. It is one of the rarer snakes found in Arkansas. It is considered to be in danger of extirpation and is afforded special protections.

Gallery

Midwest Wormsnake Midwest Wormsnake Midwest Wormsnake Midwest Wormsnake

Contributors

  • kaptainkory March 23, 2006, at 07:18 AM (Original Contributor)

Bibliography

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.

Discussion

< Flat-headed Snake | Snake | Western Wormsnake >

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Page last modified on January 21, 2012, at 08:54 PM