Rough Earth Snake

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Virginia striatula

Appearance

Earth snakes are small, secretive snakes that are brown, gray or reddish colored on their backs, cream to yellow colored bellies and have essentially no patterning. The young have a light colored band behind their head. This snake has a pointed snout. Typical adults are 7-12 inches long.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Rough earth snakes are active from March to late-October. They usually hide in leaf litter, loose soil and under rocks. They feed on earthworms, slugs and soft-bodied insects. Its pointed head comes in handy and works as a “spade” as the snake searches soft soils for earthworms and insects.

Females give birth to live young. Their normal range is eastern Virginia southward to Florida and east to Texas up through southern Missouri. Their most common habitat is woodlands, exposed rocky hillsides and compost piles. Gardeners may encounter this species when working in vegetable and flower gardens due to the snakes’ association with compost piles. Generally, the rough earth snake is seen after it rains.

More Information

Rough earth snakes pose no threat to humans since they do not possess fangs. While not aggressive towards humans, they have limited defensive abilities when pressured by predators. This species may strike when threatened, but its bite generates only minor, superficial wounds. The rough earth snake is commonly killed by domestic cats and left as “trophies” on their owners’ porch, walk or patio.

When snakes are a problem, the best course of action is to call a pest management professional (PMP) who has the tools and knowledge to address the problem.

An encounter with a rough earth snakes may be discouraged by eliminating or reducing their food supply and habitat. Since vegetation and debris are major snake attracters, mow closely around homes and outbuildings, store firewood and lumber away from residences and reduce piles of rocks, leaves or other items that give snakes shelter. Seal cracks and crevices in buildings and around pipes and utility connections. Keep vegetation and landscaping beds well maintained. Shrubs and bushes make great hiding places for snakes. If you choose to have bushes or shrubs, select ones that grow higher off the ground and keep the ground under these plants free of grass and mulch. Child play areas can be protected from most snakes with a snake-proof fence.

Glue traps commonly used to catch small rodents can be used to catch rough earth snakes. However, this technique almost always results in killing or seriously injuring the snake since removing the trapped snake is very difficult. If you choose this control method, be sure to wear protective work gloves.

Use of ultrasonic sound emitters (snakes can’t hear, at least in high frequencies) or fake owl or hawk decoys are not effective.