Northern Florida Swamp Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Seminatrix pygaea pygaea (COPE 1871)
* Currently accepted name

Synonym:
* scientific names used through time

  • Contia pygaea – COPE 1871
  • Tropidonotus pygaeus – BOULENGER 1893
  • Seminatrix pygaea – DOWLING 1950
  • Seminatrix pygaea pygaea – DOWLING 1950

Description: Average adult size is 10-15 inches (25-38 cm), record is 18.5 inches (47 cm). Adults are shiny and black. The belly is red with a black line at the base of each ventral scale extending 1/3 the distance from the edge to the center. It has more than 117 belly scales. The scales on the back are smooth and there are 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile color is similar to adults.

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A. Top of the head
B. Smooth scales
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head

Range: In Florida, the Northern Florida Swamp Snake occurs from the central peninsula north into the panhandle. Outside of Florida, it occurs from southern Alabama to eastern Georgia.

Habitat: Commonly found in a variety of aquatic enivironments such as cypress swamps, marshes, prairies, lakes, ponds, slow moving streams and rivers, willow heads, hyacinth-choked canals, and estuaries.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Northern Florida Swamp Snake is aquatic and prefers to inhabit areas with dense vegetation where it burrows into sphagnum moss, and bottom and floating vegetation. It is rarely encountered away from water, but sometimes can be found under logs or debris near water, in crayfish burrows, or crossing roads during rain. It feeds on small fishes, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, sirens, amphiumas, and invertebrates including leeches, and worms. It is live-bearing, with 2-11 young born in the summer months.

Comparison with other species: The Southern Florida Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea cyclas) has less than 117 ventral scales with black edges. The Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) is grayish-brown with a light colored neck. The Mud Snake (Farancia abacura) has lateral pinkish-red bands or bars and a black and red checkerboard patterned belly.