Rhadinaea flavilataPine Woods Snake

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Geographic Range

Rhadinaea flavilata is most prevalent in Florida; it is found throughout most of the peninsula south to around Lake Okeechobee. There are also isolated populations in the central panhandle. Outside of Florida, it is found in isolated populations along the coastal plain from North Carolina to eastern Louisiana.

(Florida Museum of Natural History, 1996)

Habitat

The Pine Woods Snake is found in heavily shaded, damp ground litter of lowland pine flatwoods, as its name would indicate. These snakes are rarely seen in pinelands, freshwater marshes, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, bayheads, barrier islands in tidal marshes, sandhills, mixed harwood forests, and pine forest. Rhadinaea flavilata occasionally found under rotting logs and leaves, but most often under the bark of dead pine trees. Pine Woods Snakes also tend to turn up in areas where the pine flatwoods habitat has been lost to urban development and all that remains is slash pines scattered among the houses. They even have been found under the pine straw that accumulates on the roofs of houses in southwest peninsular Florida.

(Florida Museum of Natural History 1996, Carmichael 1999)

Physical Description

Rhadinaea flavilata adults are slender and average 10-12 inches (25.4-30.4 cm). They are yellowish-brown to reddish with whitish-yellow lips and a thin dark line running from the corner of the jaw, through the eye, to the nose. The chin is also light colored. Underneath they are solid whitish-yellow. The scales are smooth, with 17 scale rows dorsally at midbody. The anal plate is divided. Pupils are round. Juveniles have similar physical features to that of adults.

(Florida Museum of Natural History 1996, Carmichael 1999)

Reproduction

Eggs are laid in a small clutch, no natural nests are known. The breeding season is from March to early May. Producing two-four inch long eggs between May and August. The eggs hatch during the summer months. Young are approximately 5 inches (12.7 cm)upon hatching.

(Florida Museum of Natural History 1996, Tennant 1997)

Behavior

The Pine Woods Snake is nonvenomous, technically weakly venomous, and does not bite when picked up by humans. They are most active during the breeding season. After warm rain or temporary flooding, the snake may briefly appear from below ground, but only as far as the underside of natural debris or human detritus. Rhadinaea flavilata has a short lifespan, a maximum of three years in captivity, like most small serpents.

(Florida Museum of Natural History 1996, Tennant 1997)

Food Habits

The Pine Woods Snake is carnivorous. Their primary food sources are small lizards, salamanders, frogs (especially hylids), snakes, and insects. Fangs in the rear of its mouth are used to subdue its prey. Its weak venom is used to immobilized the prey before being swallowed. The Pine woods snake's salivary toxins are no defense against the Ophiophagus Eastern and Scarlet Kingsnakes.

(Burton 1991, Florida Museum of Natural History 1996, Tennant 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In Florida, reptiles are one of the main contributors to a stable ecosystem. They hold some important ranks in the food chain. They also help keep rodents and other pests under control.

(Florida Museum of Natural History 1996)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No adverse affects on humans are known at this time.

Conservation Status

They are uncommon, but are present on land set aside to conserve ecosystems, such as the Everglades National Park.

Contributors

Suzanne Sum (author), Cocoa Beach High School, Penny Mcdonald (editor), Cocoa Beach High School.

Glossary

Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

References

Burton, .. 1991. The Book of Snakes. Singapore: Quarto Publishing.

Carmichael, .., .. Williams. 1999. Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibains. Tampa, Florida: World Publications.

Florida Museum of Natural History, 1996, 1999. Accessed February 10, 2000 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/natsci/herpetology/fl%2Dguide/rhadinaeaflavilata.htm.

Tennant, .. 1997. A Field Guide to Snakes of Florida. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.