Snakes & Lizards of TN - Natural History

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Author:
sierratac
ID:
201805
Filename:
Snakes & Lizards of TN - Natural History
Updated:
2013-02-21 00:16:01
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herpetology snakes lizards tennessee tntech
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For TN Tech's Herpetology course; does not include egg-laying vs. live birth
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  1. Range: Statewide but very uncommon

    Habitat: Pine forests with sandy soils, under logs/debris;

    Behavior: not aggressive, only found in the open at night, not aggressive, rarely climbs

    Diet: Prefers other reptile eggs, swallows other prey alive
    • Scarlet Snake - Cemophora
    • coccinea
  2. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Generalists, but espsecially forests, fields, wetlands

    Behavior: Usually diurnal, hyperactive, will react aggressively if cornered, will climb to flee

    Diet: Pretty much any vertebrate smaller than it, eats prey alive
    • Black (Eastern) Racer
    • - Coluber constrictor
  3. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Fields, pastures, farmland, open woods

    Behavior: Emits a foul smelling musk, flattens out, and vibrates tail when threatened; moderately hyperactive but not aggressive. Rarely climbs.

    Diet: Pretty much any vertebrate smaller than it, except birds; constricts prey
    • Prairie Kingsnake – Lampropeltis
    • calligaster
  4. Range: almost statewide e/c NE corner, common but declining in some areas

    Habitat: Variety, incl: grasslands, forests, around abandoned buildings; found in the open or under debris

    Behavior: non-aggressive unless severely provoked; shakes tail when disturbed. Rarely climbs.

    Diet: Mostly snakes, including pit vipers (immune to venom), but will eat most small vertebrates as well, and also eggs. Constricts prey.
    • Common
    • Kingsnake - Lampropeltis getula
  5. Range: Statewide, most common in east, elsewhere rare-uncommon

    Habitat: Rocky slopes (forests) most common, also near agricultural areas, esp. barns

    Behavior: non-aggressive, secretive and primarily nocturnal. Seldom climbs.

    Diet: Most small vertebrates excluding birds; constricts prey.
  6. Eastern Milksnake - Lampropeltis
    triangulum
  7. Range: Only Lookout Mountain in TN where it is very uncommon; moderately common in Coastal Plains

    Habitat: Rocky areas, mostly in sandy, woody habitats (esp. pine stands); mostly found under rocks or debris, inside rotting logs, or under bark of dead pine trees

    Behavior: Reluctant to bite but thrashes if handled

    Diet: Almost exclusively lizards, occasionally snakes & small mice; constricts prey
    Scarlet Kingsnake - Lampropeltis elapsoides
  8. Range: Only in SW TN, and rare; rare-uncommon elsewhere

    Habitat: Dry sandy flatwoods & pine forests; often found in the open but rarely seen due to scarcity.

    Behavior: Prowls w/ head above ground, very fast; if harassed coils up & shakes tail like rattler. Excellent climber.

    Diet: Most small vertebrates incl birds & eggs, occasionally other snakes, not amphibs. Sometimes pins prey to ground, swallows alive.
    • Coachwhip – Masticophis
    • flagellum
  9. Range: Statewide except  far NE; common but rarely seen

    Habitat: Abundant green vegetation, mostly edge habitats

    Behavior: Arboreal. Remains motionless when threatened; thrashes about if captured/hyperactive but rarely bites.

    Diet: Insects and other invertebrates; swallows prey alive.
    Rough Green Snake – Opeodrys aestivus
  10. Range: Eastern & southern TN, common

    Habitat: Upland, esp. sandy soils & pine forests, common around barns & houses

    Behavior: Shake their tails and rear up when threatened but rarely bite in captivity. Climb well and young hide under tree bark of standing dead trees.

    Diet: Adults: mostly rodents; juveniles: mostly lizards. Constrictors.
    Eastern Corn Snake - Pantherophis guttata
  11. Range: Scattered, v. uncommon

    Habitat: Pine flatwoods, sandy pine-oak woodlands

    Behavior: When threatened, emits a very loud rattling, hissing noise and shakes
    tail, mostly bluff-strikes rather than actually biting. Climbs occasionally, but most often burrows.

    Diet: Mainly rodents & other small mammals, bird eggs. Constrictors.
    Eastern Pine Snake- Pituophis melanoleucus
  12. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Widespread in forested, also around & in buildings; often seen in open & on roads.

    Behavior: Shake their tails and rear up when threatened. Climbs very well. ·        
    Bite readily, especially when first captured.

    Diet: Rodents, birds, and bird eggs (primary
    egg-eating snake in TN) Constrictors.
    Midland Rat Snake – Scotophis spiloides
  13. Range: Throughout but moderately uncommon (missing from ex. west & north)

    Habitat: Mostly sandy soils dominated by pines; most often found under rocks & dead logs

    Behavior: Nocturnal and spends most of its time burrowing. Rarely climbs if at all. Non-aggressive.

    Diet: Insect larvae, snails, spiders, and especially centipedes
    Southeastern Crowned Snake – Tantilla coronata
  14. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Prefers wooded, rocky hillsides; occasionally found in open, esp. dawn & dusk

    Behavior: Frequently bites when
    handled; usually “high strung. Rarely climbs.

    Diet: Prefers mice for food, but
    will eat other reptiles and amphibians; kills with venom
    • Copperhead - Agkistrodon
    • contortrix
  15. Range: Mostly western TN, common

    Habitat: Almost always near ponded
    or slow moving water (swamps, lakes, and rivers) except when denning (on
    hillsides above the water). Commonly basks, swims on surface of water.


    Behavior: Often considered
    erroneously to be aggressive; usually does not flee as readily as most other
    snakes when threatened; coils in a circle andgapes, exposing the white inner lining of the mouth. Vibrates tail to produce rattling sound when provoked and produces a strong musk.


    Diet: Fish (primarily); also frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, small turtles, baby alligators, birds, and small mammals. Kills prey w/ venom.
    Cottonmouth - Agkistrodon piscivorus
  16. Range: Statewide but uncommon and declining.

    Habitat: Variety of wooded habitats, but most common in wooded areas with rocky ledges.

    Behavior: When threatened rattles tail (actually behavior is rare). Rarely climbs. V. docile but will bite if handled.

    Diet: Mostly small mammals, kills w/ venom.
  17. Timber Rattlesnake - Crotalus horridus
  18. Range: Only western TN and rarely, but fairly common in coastal plains of deep south.

    Habitat: Variety but mostly sandy soils; often found near water. Occasionally climbs into low shrubs & palmetto fronds. Most often encountered on trails & roads, esp. dusk & dawn, or hides in leaf litter.

    Behavior: Remains motionless & camouflaged most of time, but will rattle & bite if threatened. Very snappy if handled & readily bites.

    Diet: Small mice, lizards, frogs, & insects. Kills w/ venom.
    • Pygmy Rattlesnake - Sistrurus
    • miliarius
  19. Range: Statewide, common but not often encountered (secretive)

    Habitat: Mostly deciduous woodlands w/ abundant cover, lives underground. Very rarely seen in open; found under rocks, boards, other debris.

    Behavior: Essentially never bites (could not break skin anyway), but will use pointed tails as defense mechanism.

    Diet: Almost exclusively earthworms; subdue with very weak venom but swallows alive.
    • Eastern Worm Snake - Carphophis
    • amoenus
  20. Range: Statewide, very common & abundant

    Habitat: Generalists - forests, grassy areas, near streams, or near homes.

    Behavior: When threatened, coil their tail and expose the bright underside of their bellies, while releasing foul-smelling musk. Usually will not bite (can't break human skin anyway).

    Diet: primarily invertebrates incl. earthworms. Subdue prey w/ weak venom but swallows live.
    • Ringneck Snake - Diadophis
    • punctatus
  21. Range: Western TN only (uncommon), mostly along Mississippi River; common-abundant elsewhere

    Habitat: Mostly @ edges of lakes & ponds, swamps, rice fields (standing water environments)

    Behavior: Often regurgitates last meal and musks when harassed; flattens body and strikes
    readily. Climbs on branches just above water to bask; drops into water when
    approached. Bites if handled, but not as frequently as other water snakes.

    Diet: Mostly fish/amphibians, swallows prey alive
    Mississippi Green Water Snake – Nerodia cyclopion
  22. Range: Western TN only (uncommon); common-abundant elsewhere

    Habitat: Mostly @ edges of lakes & ponds, temporary wetlands. Occurs on land more often than other water snakes.

    Behavior: Often regurgitates last meal and musks when harassed; flattens body and strikes readily. Climbs on branches just above water to bask; drops into water when approached. Bites if handled.

    Diet: Mostly amphibians & fish, prefers amphibians more than most water snakes. Swallows prey alive
    Plainbelly Water Snake – Nerodia erythrogaster
  23. Range: Statewide except missing from SW corner; abundant.

    Habitat: Wide variety of aquatic habitats

    Behavior: Often regurgitates last meal and musks when harassed; flattens body and strikes readily. Climbs on branches just above water to bask; drops into water when approached. Bites if handled.

    Diet: Mostly fish/amphibians. Swallows prey alive
    Midland Water Snake - Nerodia sipedon
  24. Range: Areas immediately adjacent to Mississippi River; abundant.

    Habitat: Wide variety of aquatic habitats

    Behavior: Often regurgitates last meal and musks when harassed; flattens body and strikes readily. Climbs on branches just above water to bask; drops into water when approached. Bites if handled.

    Diet: Mostly fish/amphibians. Swallows prey alive
    • Southern Water Snake - Nerodia
    • fasciata
  25. Range: Western TN only, mostly along Mississippi River (common); common-abundant elsewhere

    Habitat: Rivers, streams, ponds; usually avoids clear gravelly streams

    Behavior: Often regurgitates last meal and musks when harassed; flattens body and strikes readily. Climbs on branches just above water to bask; drops into water when approached. Bites if handled.

    Diet: Mostly fish & amphibians; swallows prey alive
    Diamondback Water Snake - Nerodia rhombifer
  26. Range: Central & E TN (east of Tennessee River), common

    Habitat: mostly in and around fast-moving streams

    Behavior: Basks commonly in small shrubs over hanging streams. Takes refuge in the water or vegetation when threatened. Rarely bite, even when first captured.

    Diet: Specialize in soft-bodied (recently-molted) crayfish; swallows prey alive
    Queen Snake – Regina septemvittata
  27. Range: Statewide except in NE corner, common (one of most freq. encountered small ground snakes)

    Habitat: Wide variety, often around homes; mostly found underground or under objects

    Behavior: When threatened will flatten body to appear larger and release musky fluid from cloaca. Rarely, if ever, climbs. Not aggressive but will excrete on captors and strike.

    .Diet: Mostly earthworms/slugs, also small salamanders & insects; swallows prey alive
    Dekay (brown) Snake – Storeria dekayi
  28. Range: Statewide, uncommon (but common elsewhere)

    Habitat: Mixed woodlands & deciduous forests; most common around wetland margins, seldom around homes; usually hides under logs, rocks, & debris piles

    Behavior: Curls lip and exposes teeth when threatened (v. unusual). Will occasionally climb in low shrubs, but mostly found on the ground. Rarely bites when handled.

    Diet: Mostly slugs, earthworms, & soft-bodied insects; swallows prey alive
    Redbelly Snake - Storeria occipitomaculata
  29. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Variety incl. suburbs, often found near water, in the open or under debris, seldom in trees or shrubs.

    Behavior: Will puff up the body and make thrashing aggressive movements if threatened; also produces copious amounts of foul-smelling musky
    liquid that is released readily. Not aggressive, but will bite if handled.

    Diet: amphibians, invertebrates; swallows prey alive
    Common Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis
  30. Range: W. TN only, uncommon-locally common, more common elsewhere.

    Habitat: Semi-aquatic, prefer wetlands & edges of ponds/streams. Almost always found on ground or under logs/rocks/boards

    Behavior: Often seen swimming, able to climb. Non-aggressive, unlikely to bite even when handled.

    Diet: Primarily salamander, frogs, earthworms, & small fish; eats prey alive.
    Western and Eastern Ribbon Snakes - Thamnophis proximus and T. sauritis
  31. Range: E & W TN only (NOT middle), uncommon.

    Habitat: variety of forest habitats w/ abundant ground cover; mostly found uder rocks/logs/debris

    Behavior: burrowers, rarely climb

    Diet: Earthworms & insects; eats prey alive.
    Smooth Earth Snake - Virginia valeriae
  32. Range: SW corner only, uncommon.

    Habitat: variety of forest habitats w/ abundant ground cover; mostly found uder rocks/logs/debris

    Behavior: burrowers, rarely climb

    Diet: Almost exclusively earthworms; eats prey alive.
    Rough Earth Snake - Virginia striatula
  33. Range: W TN only, moderately common.

    Habitat: Variety of wetland habitats, sometimes slow-moving streams. Usually remains hidden in aquatic vegetation, so seldom seen in the open; sometimes encountered crossing roads, especially on rainy nights during summer.

    Behavior: Use sharply pointed tails to prod both prey and hands if handled but seldom, if ever, bites. When threatened, will curl into a loose ball with the head protected by the coils; curls tail when doing so.

    Diet: Adults - almost exclusively sirens & amphiumas; young also eat small amphibians (usually tadpoles). Swallows prey alive.
    Mud Snake - Farancia abacura
  34. Range: Statewide but uncommon.

    Habitat: Variety, most commonly woodland w/ sandy soils & open grassy areas near woods

    Behavior: ·        
    If threatened, they will puff out their neck and thrash about; if this fails, they will convulse, flip over, hang their tongue out, and play dead.

    Diet: almost exclusively toads; subdues w/ very weak venom, but usually swallows prey while alive
    Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - Heterodon platirhinos
  35. Range: Occurs statewide except for far
    NE; moderately uncommon, more common elsewhere.

    Habitat: Mainly in dry, open areas; most common in sandy habitats. Rarely climbs.

    Behavior: Takes refuge in burrows or darts short distances when threatened; one of the fastest lizards in the eastern U.S. Less
    likely to lose their tails than most other lizards, but will regenerate.

    Diet: invertebrates
    Six-lined Racerunner - Aspidoscelsis sexlineata
  36. Range: Small, isolated pops in E & N TN, uncommon

    Habitat: wooded eareas, most often near streams; under rocks & logs

    Behavior: Will dive into water when attacked, readily detaches tail. Tends eggs. Typically does not climb.

    Diet: invertebrates incl. spiders
    Coal Skink - Plestiodon anthracinus
  37. Range: Occurs statewide, very common

    Habitat: Widespread; most common wooded areas w/ fallen cover (rotting stumps & logs, rock piles, decaying debris, boards)

    Behavior: Will climb dead or decaying tree for prey or to escape predators; will readily lose their tail if threatened. Females tend eggs.

    Diet: invertebrates
    Five-lined Skink - Plestiodon fasciatus
  38. Range: Thought to occur throughout central TN, very common

    Habitat: Widespread; most common wooded areas w/ fallen cover (rotting stumps & logs, rock piles, decaying debris, boards)

    Behavior: Will climb dead or decaying tree for prey or to escape predators; will readily lose their tail if threatened. Females tend eggs.

    Diet: invertebrates
    Southern Five-lined Skink - Plestiodon inexpectatus
  39. Range: Statewide, common; abundant elsewhere

    Habitat: Widespread; most common wooded areas w/ loose soil & abundant leaf litter. Often found under logs, boards, etc.)

    Behavior: Almost exclusively ground dwellers; dart about on the forest floor, looking for prey (extremely fast!). Readily loses tail if threatened

    Diet: tiny insects & other invertebrates
    Little Brown (Ground) Skink - Scincella lateralis
  40. Range: Statewide except NE corner, very uncommon; locally common elsewhere

    Habitat: Mainly dry, open areas, esp. sandy habitats. 

    Behavior: Loses tail moderately easily (but slightly less than skinks), it shatters into multiple pieces. Rarely, if ever, climbs.

    Diet: wide variety of invertebrates, also small reptiles & rodents
    Slender Glass Lizard - Ophisaurus attenuatus

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