Florida Pine Snake
Scientific name: Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus (BARBOUR 1921)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Coluber melanoleucus – DAUDIN 1803
- Pituophis melanoleucus – HOLBROOK 1842
- Rhinechis melanoleucus – DUMÉRIL 1853
- Pityophis melanoleucus – BAIRD 1859
- Pituophis melanoleuca – GÜNTHER 1894
- Pituophis melanoleucos – CUESTA-TERRÓN 1921
- Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus – BARBOUR 1921
Description: Adults average from 48-66 inches (122-168 cm). The record is 90 inches (228.6 cm). A large stocky snake with an indistinct pattern of reddish or dark tan blotches on a tan, brownish gray, or rusty brown ground color. The pattern of dark blotches is most distinct on the hind part of the body and the tail. Some individuals lack the blotched pattern giving them an overall light-colored appearance, while others may have nearly black markings. The belly is uniformly ashy gray. There are 29 dorsal scale rows at midbody and the scales are keeled. The pupils are round. The snout is somewhat pointed and covered by a large triangular, almost cone-shaped, rostral scale. There are four large scales on top of its snout, rather than two as in many other snakes. The juvenile pattern is similar to that above, but is brighter and less obscured towards the head.
A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Keeled scales
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
Range: The Florida Pine Snake occurs throughout the state, excluding the Florida Keys, The Everglades, extreme southwestern Florida, and immediately north of Lake Okeechobee. Outside of Florida, it occurs in southwestern and eastern Georgia to southern South Carolina.
Habitat: Although not common, the Florida Pine Snake requires dry sandy soils for burrowing. It is found most often in open pine-turkey oak woodlands and abandoned fields, and also in scrub, sandhills, and longleaf pine forest.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). When disturbed, the Florida Pine Snake will inflate and rear its forebody off the ground while hissing very loudly. Because of alteration and fragmentation to much of Florida's upland habitats, the Florida Pine Snake is no longer found in many areas of its historic range and is declining in others. It is listed as a "State-designated Threatened species" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Florida Pine Snake feeds primarily on pocket gophers, which it pursues by forcing its way into their underground burrows. Other small mammals, lizards, and reptile eggs are also eaten. It may occasionally climb trees in search of birds and their nests. Florida Pine Snakes spend most of their time underground in pocket gopher or gopher tortoise burrows. Breeding occurs in spring and 4-8 large, whitish eggs are laid in pocket gopher burrows during mid to late summer. The 18-20 inch (46-51 cm) young hatch in September-October.
Comparison with other species: The Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) may be tan, yellow, or orange with 4 dark stripes, or white to gray with dark gray blotches; and also lacks the enlarged triangular rostral scale on the snout. The Eastern Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum flagellum) has a dark head and neck turning into a tan body and tail; it also lacks the enlarged triangular rostral scale, and has smooth scales.