Black Pine Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi (BLANCHARD 1924)
* Currently accepted name

Synonym:
* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber melanoleucus – DAUDIN 1803
  • Pituophis melanoleucus – HOLBROOK 1842
  • Rhinechis melanoleucus – DUMÉRIL 1853
  • Pityophis melanoleucus – BAIRD 1859
  • Pituophis melanoleuca – GÜNTHER 1894
  • Pituophis melanoleucos – CUESTA-TERRÓN 1921
  • Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi – BLANCHARD 1924

Description: Adults average from 48-64 inches (122-163 cm). The record is 89 inches (226 cm). A large stocky snake. Back and belly are uniform (or nearly so) black or dark brown. Faint blotches may be seen on the hindbody or tail. In Florida, the Black Pine Snake interbreeds with the Florida Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus mutigus) to produce individuals with very dark brown or black backs and dark gray to whitish bellies with scattered black spots. There are 29 dorsal scale rows at midbody and the scales are keeled. The pupils are round. The snout is somewhat pointed and covered by a large triangular, almost cone-shaped, rostral scale. There are four large scales on top of the snout, rather than two as in many other snakes. Juveniles are dark toward the head, patterned toward the tail, and have pink to tan bellies.

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A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Keeled scales
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided

Range: The Black Pine Snake occurs in Florida only as an intergrade with the Florida Pine Snake, found in the panhandle west of the Escambia River. Pure Black Pinesnakes occur from southwestern Alabama to extreme eastern Louisiana.

Habitat: The Black Pine Snake requires dry sandy soils for burrowing. It is found in pine and mixed hardwood forests.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). When disturbed, the Black Pine Snake will inflate and rear its forebody off the ground while hissing very loudly. It feeds primarily on pocket gophers, which it pursues by forcing its way into their underground burrows. Prey also include other small mammals, birds and their eggs, and reptile eggs. Breeding occurs in spring and 4-8 large, whitish eggs are laid in pocket gopher burrows during mid to late summer. The 18-20 inch (46-51 cm) young hatch in September-October.

Comparison with other species: The Eastern Racer (Coluber constrictor) has smooth scales, divided cloacal plate, only two large scales on the top of the snout, and lack the enlarged triangular rostral scale on the tip of the snout. The Eastern Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum flagellum) has a dark head and neck turning into a tan body and tail, smooth scales and lacks the enlarged triangular rostral scale on the snout. The Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) has smooth scales, only two large scales on top of its snout, and lacks the enlarged triangular rostral scale on the tip of its snout.