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Natural Highlights: Rough Earth Snake

  photo by J.D.Willson

Referred to as a ground snake or little brown snake by some, the Rough Earth Snake (Haldea striatula) is a harmless, small, pointy-nosed denizen of just a few counties in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, including Shelby County. These snakes are only 7-10 inches long as adults with plain brown backs and cream- to gray-colored bellies, and they are sometimes encountered on sidewalks after a rainstorm where they look very much like large earthworms - their favorite food item. Easily confused with the Smooth Earth Snake and the Worm Snake which also occur here, the Rough Earth Snake is distinguished by the 5 scales on its upper lip and the keeled scales on its body. It is a fossorial species, spending most of its life underground, or under rocks or logs, in pursuit of earthworms and other soft-bodied prey; females give live birth to up to 10 young.

The Rough Earth Snake is one of the many fascinating organisms - most of them microscopic - which live in fertile soil beneath forests, fields, and suburban yards - a complex ecosystem we are just beginning to understand.  The presence of these nice little snakes indicates an adequate supply of earthworms and other prey which depend on and contribute to a system rich in smaller invertebrates, plant roots, and innumerable protists, fungi, bacteria, and other organisms, interacting with organic matter, minerals, and nutrients.

For more information on the Rough Earth Snake, please see the links below:

https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/reptiles/snakes/rough-earthsnake.html

https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/virstr.htm

Posted by Cathy Justis at 1:38 PM