SNAKES OF LAKE WOODRUFF NWR

For more information about the ecology and natural history of snakes common to this area, visit the Florida Snake Quiz.

VENOMOUS SNAKES ARE RELATIVELY COMMON AT LAKE WOODRUFF NWR, SO EXERCISE CAUTION WITH ALL SNAKES.  WHEN IN DOUBT, WALK AWAY FROM THE ANIMAL. 

Pit vipers (Family Viperidae, Subfamily Crotalinae) VENOMOUS

             pigmyt.jpg (11161 bytes) The dusky pigmy rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri, is the pit viper most likely to be encountered on the refuge. They can be found in nearly all areas except aquatic habitats, though they are most common in mesic hammock and along the edges of the dikes.  In spring through fall, looking along the sides of the dikes an hour or so before sunset is a good way to find them.   They are usually coiled when seen, and a coiled adult is only a 4-5" across.   For more information on pigmy rattlesnakes, see the Pigmy Rattlesnake Home Page.
cottont.jpg (14067 bytes) Cottonmouths, or water moccasins (Agkistrodon piscivorus), are not common in the public use areas of the refuge, though they are occasionally found along the edges of impoundments, in flooded hammocks, and sometimes crossing the dikes.  Most snakes seen crossing the dikes are not cottonmouths, but banded water snakes.  If you see this display from a snake, it's a cottonmouth that wishes to be left alone.  Color pattern is highly variable, and prominent bars as seen in this snake may not be present.  The brown mask on the side of the head bordered by white lines is a consistent feature.  For more information about cottonmouths, visit this site.
edbt.jpg (21167 bytes) Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus) are heavy-bodied, boldly patterned, and unmistakeably gorgeous, whether or not you can see or hear the rattle (most individuals don't rattle unless highly perturbed).  They are not easily found, though present on several parts of the refuge.  Populations occur on Jones Island, and in the upland xeric hammock habitats just inside the refuge entrance.  They can occasionally be found in the winter by looking around the entrances of gopher tortoise burrows on bright, sunny days.

Coral snake (Family Elapidae) VENOMOUS

coralt.jpg (12416 bytes) "Red on black, friend of Jack, red on yellow, kill a fellow".  Coral snakes, Micrurus fulvius, are common in mesic and xeric hammock habitats, though they spend most of their time under the leaf litter.  Several individuals are killed by cars on the entrance road every year, and the Oak Hammock Nature Trail just south of the parking lot is one of the places where they are regularly seen.  Though relatively docile (usually) and loathe to strike unless persistently pestered, this is an extremely dangerous snake that should not be handled.

Colubrid snakes (Family Colubridae)

This is the largest family of snakes in the world, and contains nearly 3/4 of the known species of snakes.  Consequently they are diverse in size, color, shape, ecology, and behavior.  I'll treat the more commonly seen colubrid snakes by general habitat preferences.  None of these species are venomous, although many will bite if handled.

Aquatic species

bwatert.jpg (16753 bytes) Probably the most commonly seen snake on the refuge, the banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) is common in all pools and impoundments, and in hammock habitats when water is present.   They are sometimes seen crossing the dikes just before dusk in great numbers.   The color pattern is highly variable, and may range from bright reddish-brown with prominent banding to nearly solid black.  Dark margins around the scales above the mouth (the labials) are a consistent field mark.  Other less common water snakes include the Florida green water snake and the brown water snake.
reginat.jpg (12794 bytes) The striped crayfish snake, Regina alleni, is almost completely aquatic, but is sometimes seen crossing the dikes during the day in early spring, or in the summer after dark.  They are quite shiny, and their small tapered head and large eyes give them a very unique appearance.  They feed primarily (exclusively?) on crayfish, hence their aquatic ways.  Look for them on the dikes south of Pools 1 and 3.
semit.jpg (11165 bytes) Another primarily aquatic snake that occasionally comes out on the dikes around dusk or after dark is the black swamp snake, Seminatrix pygaea.  Maximum length is no more than 18", and they are very tame.  The bright orange belly is distinctive, though you only see it if you pick them up.  Like crayfish snake, they are very glossy.  Look for them on the dikes around the impoundments as well.

Leaf litter species

Several small to medium sized, secretive snakes occur on the refuge, most commonly in hammock habitats where there is a well-developed litter layer.  They are sometimes seen crossing roads or dikes, but are usually found only by those looking for them by flipping over logs, branches or palm fronds.  If you do flip cover to seek them, be sure to REPLACE THE COVER EXACTLY AS YOU FOUND IT, and do not tear up rotten logs or branches.  These types of ground cover provide very specific microclimatic conditions needed by these snakes and other animals, and disturbance can make it unsuitable.

ringneckt.jpg (11095 bytes) This is the ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus.  The name points out its most distinctive feature.  Maximum size is about 10"; these guys feed on earthworms, slugs, and small vertebrates such as ground skinks.
storert.jpg (9283 bytes) This is the red-bellied snake, Storeria occipitomaculata.  I see them occasionally crossing the road between the entrance gate and the parking lot.  The faint band on the neck will distinguish them from the somewhat similar pinewoods snake, Rhadinea flavilata, which is less common.
tantillt.jpg (11604 bytes) The Florida crowned snake, Tantilla relicta, can be found by looking under cover in the xeric hammock habitats just inside the refuge entrance.
skingt.jpg (11671 bytes) This coral snake mimic, the scarlet king snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), is common in some of the mesic hammock "islands" located in the floodplain marsh.  They tend to come out on the surface more frequently in the late summer and fall.  The somewhat similar, but less common scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea), is found in drier, sandier soil habitats such as the xeric hammocks along the railroad tracks.

Arboreal species

These snakes can be found on the ground at times, but spend much of their time high in the trees.

yratt.jpg (11421 bytes) The yellow rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata, can reach over 6' in length.  They are most frequently found in mesic and hydric hammocks, and are also frequently seen along the entrance road near the main parking lot. Smaller individuals are sometimes found far from hammock out on the dikes.  Juveniles look quite different from the adults.  This one is in defensive mode, and will strike viciously and repeatedly if given the chance.
rgreent.jpg (10839 bytes) There's no mistaking the rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivalis. Probably fairly common in mesic and hydric hammock habitats, they are not often seen because of their camouflaging color pattern, slow movement, and arboreal habits.  I see several of these snakes dead on the road close to the parking lot each year, so I suspect they are quite abundant.  They feed mainly on insects.
ribbont.jpg (10776 bytes) Though not strictly arboreal, larger ribbon snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) have been found high in the trees feeding on tree frogs.  They are widespread among most habitats on the refuge, and can be found in the hammocks, foraging along the edges of pools and canals for frogs and fish, and hunting in the grass on the dikes, even in open areas far from wooded habitat.

Miscellaneous colubrids

racert.jpg (14989 bytes) One of the most widespread and widely-ranging snakes on the refuge, black racers (Coluber constrictor) can be found just about anywhere.  These rapid, highly alert and visually oriented snakes are usually gone before or soon after you see them.  They are also considerably different in color pattern from the adults when young.  They feed on frogs, other snakes, birds, and small mammals.
gartert.jpg (15473 bytes) Garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis, are sometimes considered semi-aquatic, and can be found around the margins of canals and impoundments.  They can also be found in the interior of mesic hammocks, far from standing water.
cornt.jpg (16465 bytes) Unlike its congener the yellow rat snake, the corn snake, Elaphe guttata, seems to spend a greater amount of time under ground cover than in the trees, though it is a capable climber like all rat snakes.  I've seen these snakes a few times around the parking lot area and once out on the dikes near a hammock island, but they are not common on the refuge.

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