Rough Greensnake Opheodrys aestivus - Special Concern

Adult from Brown County

Identification

Rough Greensnakes are bright green with yellowish underbellies and strongly keeled scales. They are very slender and move slowly through vegetation, often swaying like a vine to blend in. Most Rough Greensnakes are two to three feet (60 - 90 cm) long.

There are only two bright greensnakes in Indiana and this is the species found in the southern and west-central parts of the state. The smaller Smooth Greensnake only occurs in northwestern Indiana; the two do not occur together in Indiana.

Ecology and Conservation

In Indiana, the Rough Greensnake ranges south of the glacial boundary from Vigo County to Dearborn County. It is usually found in hilly areas where it frequents dry, sparse woodland habitat. They are very good climbers and often bask in low trees and bushes on sunny days. The Rough Greensnake preys mostly on insects such as grasshoppers and spiders. When threatened, it freezes in place and waits for an opportune moment then escapes for the nearest cover.

Today, this is a species of Special Concern in the state. The loss of quality, undisturbed woody habitat is a likely reason for its decline.

Distribution

Rough Greensnakes occur primarily in southern Indiana, though they are occasionally found in western Indiana as far north as Parke County. They are an uncommon snake that may be in decline, though their cryptic coloration makes them difficult to study. This insectivorous snake is most abundant in densely vegetated edges; along hedgerows, thickets, and in vegetation overhanging bodies of water.

Taxonomy

Some herpetologists recognize subspecies of the Rough Greensnake, while others do not. For those that recognize these subspecies, Indiana is home to the Northern Rough Greensnake (O. a. aestivus). These snakes are members of the family Colubridae, which is represented by a total of 28 species in Indiana.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
Photographs