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Herpetofaunal Surveys at Fort Matanzas National Monument

Snakes

Scarlet Snake – Cemophora coccinea

Scarlet Snake

Scarlet Snake

The scarlet snake is most frequently found under the loose bark of dead trees and logs. Its pointed nose is an aid in burrowing. In Fort Matanazas National Monument, it occurs in the live oak hammock and in the slash pine and red bay woodland. It feeds on the eggs of other reptiles.

Scarlet snakes are a harmless species that seldom bites even if picked up. It is sometimes mistaken for a coral snake. However, the scarlet snake has a red nose and a white belly, unlike the coral snake which has a black nose and rings that go all the way around its body so its belly is the same color as its back.

Southern Racer – Coluber constrictor

Snake

Snake

Southern racers are fast and agile. These slender black snakes can be seen coursing rapidly through the live oak hammocks, the dunes meadows, and cedar-cabbage palm forests. They are frequently found prowling around freshwater ponds where one of their favorite prey species, leopard frogs, occur. Their lips, chin and throat typically are white. While primarily a terrestrial species, they readily climb wax myrtles, and other shrubs and well-branched small trees. When cornered, they nervously vibrate their tail. The sound of that vibration in dry leaves is reminiscent of a rattlesnake's rattle.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake – Crotalus adamanteus

snake

snake

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are one of the largest snakes found in Fort Matanzas National Monument, reaching lengths of 6 feet (1.8 m). It is a formidably venomous species that evokes a lot of mysticism. They are found throughout Fort Matanzas, but are most abundant in the open, drier areas of the dunes meadows and cedar-cabbage palm forests. Their pattern of light-bordered dark diamonds makes them conspicuous on bare sand, but very nearly camouflages them in grass.

Contrary to popular folklore, they are not particularly aggressive. As long as they are not disturbed, most will sit quietly amidst the vegetation and not even rattle. If threatened, they will rattle and prepare to strike. Given a chance, most usually will seek shelter in a nearby gopher tortoise burrow. The burrow also provides protection from winter cold temperatures. They feed on rabbits, rats and mice, and they readily swim which explains their presence on many coastal islands.

Southern Ring–necked Snake – Diadophis punctatus punctatus

Ringneck snake

Ringneck snake

The ringneck snakes is one of Florida's prettiest and most easily identified snakes. Its back is black, and it has a bright yellow or orange ring around its neck, and a yellow, orange or reddish belly. Most are 10–12 inches (25–30.5 cm) long. In Fort Matanzas National Monument they hide in the leaf litter and under logs and fallen limbs in the more moist parts of the live oak hammock where they feed on earthworms, slugs, and small lizards.

Eastern Indigo Snake – Drymarchon couperi

Snake

snake

Indigo snakes are lustrous black, a darker, more shiny black than that of southern racers. Sunlight reflects off the indigo's scales as a bright iridescent indigo blue with a coppery sheen. The indigo snake's chin and throat often are reddish orange or with a smattering of white. Indigos are the largest non-venomous snakes in North America, occasionally reaching lengths of 8 feet (2.4 m). Because of habitat loss and over collecting for pets, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the indigo snake as a 'Threatened Species'. The Fort Matanzas National Monument population is not threatened by habitat loss or collecting, but automobiles kill them when crossing Highway A1A. Indigos eat frogs and other snakes, including coachwhips and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. Indigos inhabit the dunes meadows and live oak hammocks in Fort Matanzas National Monument, where they seek shelter in gopher tortoise burrows.

Corn Snake – Pantherophis guttatus

cornsnake

cornsnake

The cornsnake is an arboreal species that can be found in all the Fort Matanzas National Monument forest habitats (live oak hammock, cedar and cabbage palm forest, and slash pine and red bay woodland) and even in the upland parts of the salt marsh where mangrove, live oak, and cabbage palms occur. It is active primarily at night hunting rodents, birds, and lizards. It is frequently run-over and killed when crossing Highway A1A.

Yellow Rat Snake – Pantherophis alleghaniensis

snake

snake

Yellow rat snakes occur in Fort Matanzas National Monument's forested habitats (live oak hammock, cedar and cabbage palm forest, and slash pine and red bay woodland). It readily climbs in search of rats, mice, and birds. Young rat snakes forage for lizards on the rocky riprap leading to the Highway A1A bridge over the Matanzas River inlet and armoring the south beaches on Rattlesnake Island. Adults typically are 3-5 feet (91-152 cm) long and are yellow with four dark stripes.

Eastern Hognose Snake – Heterodon platirhinos

snake

snake

The eastern hognose snake feeds almost exclusively on toads, which are common in the live oak hammock at Fort Matanzas National Monument. It is well known for feigning death. When threatened, it flattens its head and neck and hisses loudly. It may strike violently, but even that is a fake for it only strikes away from the threat. If that is not enough to scare off the intruder, the hognose snake will turn onto its back and writhe around as though injured. It then lies still, belly up, with its mouth open and its tongue hanging out. If left alone, after a few minutes it turns its head over and looks around. If the intruder is gone, it will turn right side up and crawl away.

Eastern Coachwhip Snake – Masticophis flagellum flagellum

snake

snake

Coachwhips are large, fast and agile hunters of the open areas in the dunes and dunes meadows. They feed on lizards, rodents, and other snakes. The adult coachwhip has a dark brown, almost black, head and neck that fades into a light brown body and tail. Coachwhips do not use their long body and tail like a bullwhip to flog opponents as suggested by folklore. Any such whipping would break the coachwhip's back. The name originated from the large rhomboidal scales on the coachwhip's body and tail that make it look like a braided whip. When threatened, they quickly flee or retreat into the burrows of gopher tortoises.

Harlequin Coralsnake – Micrurus fulvius fulvius

snake

snake

Eastern coral snakes are adapted to digging in the leaf litter and soil of the Fort Matanzas National Monument forest habitats (live oak hammock, cedar and cabbage palm forest, and slash pine and red bay woodland). However, they also are frequently seen on the surface. They are most active in the early morning and early evening hours. They feed on lizards and snakes.

Rough Green Snake – Opheodrys aestivus

Snake

Snake

The rough green snake is a beautiful, slender, pea-green snake that is found in the shrubs, trees and vines of all the Fort Matanzas National Monument habitats. It is usually encountered during the day basking in the sun in the vegetation or slowly stalking insects, spiders and other invertebrates. It is more frequently seen in the spring months.

Pine Woods Snake – Rhadinaea flavilata

Snake

Snake

The pinewoods snake is found in the open spaces in Fort Matanzas National Monument's live oak hammock and slash pine and red bay woodlands. Because they are small (10-15 inches / 25.4–40 cm) and hide under logs and loose bark, most people have never encountered a pinewoods snake. It is a docile and inoffensive species. Though totally harmless to man, it has enlarged teeth in the back of its upper jaw and saliva that is toxic to its prey, lizards and small frogs.

Peninsula Ribbon Snake – Thamnophis sauritus sackenii

Snake

Snake

The ribbon snake is an inhabitant of Fort Matanzas National Monument's dunes meadows and slash pine and bay tree woodlands. In other parts of Florida, the ribbon snake is common around ponds and wet areas. It is active during the day and is often seen basking in shrubs or gliding through the grass in search of prey.

Eastern Garter Snake – Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

Snake

Snake

Eastern garter snakes are found in Fort Matanzas National Monument's live oak hammock and slash pine and red bay woodlands. The garter snake is easily identified by the two rows of alternating dark spots down each side and the yellow, greenish or bluish longitudinal stripes down the middle of its back and along each side. Though harmless, it defends itself by biting and smearing its tormentor with smelly musk. It feeds on frogs and toads and soft-bodied invertebrates it finds in the moist leaf litter.

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