Southern Florida Swamp Snake



Scientific name: Seminatrix pygaea cyclas (DOWLING 1950)
* Currently accepted name

* scientific names used through time

  • Contia pygaea – COPE 1871
  • Tropidonotus pygaeus – BOULENGER 1893
  • Seminatrix pygaea – DOWLING 1950
  • Seminatrix pygaea cyclas – DOWLING 1950

Description: Average adult size is 10-15 inches (25-38 cm), record is 18.5 inches (47 cm). Adults are shiny and black. The belly is red with black edges. It has 117 or fewer belly scales. The scales on the back are smooth and there are 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile coloration is similar to adults.


A. Top of the head
B. Smooth scales
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head

Range: In Florida, the Southern Florida Swamp Snake occurs from the central peninsula south to the tip of Florida; it does not occur in the Florida Keys. It is not found outside of Florida.

Habitat: Commonly found in a variety of aquatic enivironments such as cypress swamps, marshes, prairies, lakes, ponds, slow moving streams and rivers, willow heads, hyacinth-choked canals, and estuaries.

Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Southern Florida Swamp Snake is aquatic and prefers to inhabit areas with dense vegetation where it burrows into sphagnum moss, and bottom and floating vegetation. It is rarely encountered away from water, but sometimes can be found under logs or debris near water, in crayfish burrows, or crossing roads during rain.

Comparison with other species: The Northern Florida Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea pygaea) has more than 117 ventral scales with a black line at their base extending 1/3 the distance from the edge to the center. The Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) is grayish-brown with a light colored neck. The Mud Snake (Farancia abacura) has lateral pinkish-red bands or bars and a black and red checkerboard patterned belly.