Atlantic Salt Marsh Snake
Scientific name: Nerodia clarkii taeniata (COPE 1895)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Regina clarkii – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
- Tropidonotus clarkii – BOULENGER 1893
- Tropidonotus compressicauda – BOULENGER 1893
- Natrix compressicauda bivittata – COPE 1888
- Natrix compressicauda taeniata – COPE 1895
- Natrix sipedon taeniata – CONANT 1958
- Natrix fasciata taeniata – CONANT 1975
- Nerodia clarkii taeniata – CONANT & COLLINS 1991
Average adult size is less than 20 inches (50.8 cm), record is 24 inches (60.9 cm). Adults are light grayish tan with stripes that extend posteriorly to the middle of the body, here the stripes fade to bands or blotches. The belly is reddish brown with a central row of light spots. The scales are keeled, and there are 21-23 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile coloration is similar to adults.
A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Keeled scales
Range: In Florida, it is found only in the intracoastal waterway marshes along the Atlantic coast in Volusia and Indian River counties. It is not found outside of Florida.
Habitat: It inhabits mangrove swamps and salt marsh tidal flats overgrown with glasswort (Salicornia) along estuarine river systems.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Atlantic Salt Marsh Snake has become increasingly rare as waterfront development has destroyed much of its habitat. It is listed as a "Threatened Species" by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
It feeds on small fishes, crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates trapped in isolated pools of water by the falling tide.
It is live-bearing. Little else is known about the life histories of this snake.
Comparison with other species: The Striped Crayfish Snake (Regina alleni) has a uniform light-colored belly. The Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata) is much thinner and has only 2 light-colored stripes on its body.
It should not happen often, but some people might confuse a Salt Marsh Snake with a venomous Cottonmouth. However, it is easy to distinguish between Cottonmouths and Salt Marsh Snakes and other Water Snakes.