Other common names
Northern Florida swampsnake, Southern Florida swampsnake
Most adult black swampsnakes are about 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) in total length. These small snakes are shiny and black. The belly is bright red with black markings on the edges. Juvenile coloration is similar to adults.
Range in Florida
Black swampsnakes are found throughout the Florida peninsula and Panhandle west to Blackwater River State Forest in Santa Rosa County. They are not known from the Florida Keys.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Black swampsnakes are not dangerous to people or pets.
Comparison with other species
Red-bellied mudsnake (Farancia abacura) Red-bellied mudsnakes are large and glossy black with around 50 red to pink bars that cross the belly and extend up onto the sides of the body.
Most adult black swampsnakes are about 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 24.5 inches (62.2 cm). These small snakes are shiny and black. The belly is bright red with black markings on the edges. The scales on the back are smooth and there are 17 scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile coloration is similar to adults.
Black swampsnakes are primarily aquatic and inhabit a variety of aquatic environments such as cypress swamps, marshes, prairies, lakes, ponds, slow moving streams and rivers, willow heads, hyacinth-choked canals, and estuaries. They are particularly fond of waters with dense aquatic vegetation. These secretive snakes are rarely encountered away from water, but they can sometimes be found under logs or debris near water, in crayfish burrows, or crossing roads during or after heavy rains.
These docile snakes typically do not bite in defense. If approached or cornered, black swampsnakes will usually attempt to quickly escape. If captured, they may release foul-smelling musk from two glands in the base of the tail.
Black swampsnakes are nocturnal (active at night) and feed on earthworms, leeches, small fish, frogs, salamanders, and small arthropods. Prey are swallowed alive without constriction
In Florida, females typically give live birth to 2-15 young between May and October.
- Northern Florida swampsnake (Liodytes pygaea pygaea) Northern Florida swampsnakes are found from the central peninsula north into the Panhandle. They typically have 118 or more belly scales.
- Southern Florida swampsnake (Liodytes pygaea cyclas) Southern Florida swampsnakes are known only from the central peninsula south to the tip of Florida. They typically have fewer than 118 belly scales.
County data coming soon.
If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.
Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.
Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, and P.E. Moler. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 706 pp.
Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins. 2016. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston and New York. xiv + 494 pp.
Share your observations
You can help scientists better understand the biology and distribution of this species by sharing your observations. Send photos or videos of interesting observations, along with associated information, by emailing the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum for documentation in the Museum’s Herpetology Master Database. You can also post your observations on iNaturalist.
Additional helpful information
Do you have snakes around your house? Learn how to safely co-exist with snakes.
Still have questions about snakes or identifications? Feel free to email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum with your questions or feedback on this profile.
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