Other common names
Smooth Earth Snake, Eastern Smooth Earthsnake
Most adult Smooth Earthsnakes are about 7-10 inches (18-26 cm) in total length. These are small glossy brown or reddish brown snakes. They may have tiny dark flecks on back that are either scattered or loosely arranged in rows. The head is small with a pointed snout. Juveniles are darker than adults.
Range in Florida
Smooth Earthsnakes occur throughout the Panhandle and east to Alachua County. An isolated population occurs in Highlands County along the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Smooth Earthsnakes are not dangerous to people or pets.
Comparison with other species
Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctata) Non-venomous Southern Ring-necked Snakes are grayish-black with a distinct neck ring and a yellow-orange belly.
Pine Woods Littersnake (Rhadinaea flavilata) Non-venomous Pine Woods Littersnakes are reddish-brown in color and have a whitish upper lip.
Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) Non-venomous Red-bellied Ssnakes have keeled scales, a light spot under the eye, a light band across the back of neck, small spots on the back, and sometimes a red belly.
Florida Brownsnake (Storeria victa) Non-venomous Florida Brownsnakes have keeled scales, spots or flecking on the back and sides.
Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata) Non-venomous Southeastern Crowned Snakes have a black head and neck.
Florida Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta) Non-venomous Florida Crowned Snakes have a black head and neck.
Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula) Non-venomous Rough Earthsnakes have keeled scales and the snout is more pointed.
Adult Smooth Earthsnakes in Florida are about 7-10 inches (18-26 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 12.8 inches (32.4 cm). These are small glossy brown or reddish-brown snakes with a plain white or yellowish belly. They may have tiny dark flecks on back that are either scattered or loosely arranged in rows. The head is small with a pointed snout. There are 15 scale rows at midbody. The scales are smooth, though faint keels (prominent raised ridges on each scale) may be present near the tail. Tiny faint lines on some scales may give the appearance of keels. The pupils are round. Juveniles are darker than adults.
Smooth Earthsnakes occupy a variety of forested habitats, but they are most commonly found in mesic hammocks and pine woodlands, particularly near marshes and other damp areas. The isolated population on the Lake Wales Ridge occurs in scrub habitat. These secretive snakes typically remain hidden beneath leaflitter, logs, rocks, or other surface cover. Adults and juveniles of this species are often found in suburban neighborhoods where development encroaches into favorable habitats.
These inoffensive snakes typically do not bite in defense. If captured, Smooth Earthsnakes will usually squirm vigorously and release foul-smelling musk from two glands in the base of the tail.
Smooth Earthsnakes feed primarily on earthworms. However, they will also eat slugs, snails, soft-bodied insects, and insect larvae. These snakes are not constrictors. Prey are typically grasped, quickly repositioned, and swallowed alive.
In Florida, females give live birth to 2-14 young in the summer. Newborns are tiny and only measure about 4 inches (10 cm) in total length.
Three subspecies of Smooth Earthsnakes are currently recognized, but only one occurs in Florida. There is currently only one species in the genus Virginia.
- Eastern Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae valeriae)
Smooth Earthsnakes can be locally abundant in parts of their range, including in residential areas. However, these small and secretive snakes are rarely seen unless they are disturbed from their hiding places during yardwork or heavy rains. Otherwise, they are typically found by actively searching for them under rocks, logs, or other surface cover.
Smooth Earthsnakes are typically active at night and early evening during the hotter summer months, but they may become more active during the day in the spring and fall.
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.