Biology: The pine woods snake (Rhadinaea flavilata) is a small snake that is native to the southeastern areas of the continental United States. Typically these snakes are a shade of brown, but rarely other colors are also reported, including albino. The underside of the pine woods snake is usually yellow or pale. One distinctive trait of this species of snake is a stripe that runs through its eye. Also, the upper lip scales tend to be yellowish, which gives rise to the pine woods snake’s other name, the yellow-lipped snake. Pine woods snakes are usually less than a foot long, but occasionally can grow to be larger than that. Like most other colubrids, the pine woods snake is nonvenomous. This means that human fatalities from pine woods snakes are unheard of. However, like most snakes pine woods snakes are theoretically capable of delivering a bite which could develop an infection. Furthermore, the pine woods snake does produce a toxin in its saliva that helps it to capture animals to eat, but this toxin is harmless to humans.
Habitat: The pine woods snake lives throughout coastal regions of the southeastern United States. The states where pine woods snakes have been known to live are Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. By far the largest number of these snakes live in Florida. Most of the snakes have been found within 50 miles of the coastline. In some instances though, specimens can be found farther inland, usually near another source of water. However, because of their extremely shy nature not much is known about their favorite habitats, other than that they prefer living under dead vegetation, particularly dead pine bark. Most of the populations that have been identified have been around wetland areas or damp woodlands. Others have been found within swamps, tidal marshes, and barrier islands off the mainland.
Behaviour: Slender and graceful, these snakes tend to be very shy. Pine woods snakes prefer to stay away from other animals, opting for privacy under a fallen tree or a pile of leaves. Perhaps its favorite place to hide is under the bark of a rotting pine tree. They are not aggressive and will generally try to hide from a large animal like a human. They are docile enough to be handled safely in captivity. Pine woods snakes are considered fossorial, which means that they live underground. However, they can be quite active during certain times of the year. They are also considered nocturnal, which means they are most active after the sun sets at night. If a pine woods snake is seen during the daytime, it is likely either breeding season or something disturbed the snake’s habitat.
Diet: Pine woods snakes are carnivores, like most other reptiles. This means that they prefer a diet of meat, but they are not scavengers as they hunt living prey. The pine woods snake mainly feeds on smaller reptiles including frogs, lizards and sometimes other snakes. Unlike some larger snakes, the pine woods snake needs to eat fairly frequently. It is an opportunistic hunter that will kill the easiest prey that comes its way. Like other snakes, pine woods snakes are important because they help keep the population of animals, especially reptiles, under control.
Reproductive: Pine woods snakes are not ovoviparous like garter snakes and other snake species. This means that pine woods snakes lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young. Like other reptiles, the eggs are extremely sensitive and care must be taken not to disturb the nesting grounds of a pine woods snake, or else the eggs can be destroyed. Typically pine woods snakes breed in late winter to mid-spring, or the months of March through May. The eggs are laid a few months after breeding, with the last of the eggs laid in August. The eggs will hatch several weeks later, with the hatchlings usually a little less than half a foot in length. Typically the female will lay one to four eggs in one season. Young pine woods snakes look almost exactly like the adults, just smaller. Size is the most reliable and easy indicator of this snake’s age. The pine woods snake does not have a very long lifespan. Most specimens will die within a couple of years and rarely does one survive beyond three years. This is common among small snakes.
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