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Species Description

Mud Snake

Farancia abacura


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae

Description

Glossy black or blue black on the back. Red to pink on the belly, with prominent black markings two to three scales wide. The belly color extends up the sides of the body to form bars of red or pink. Adults average from 102 - 137 cm (40.2 - 53.9 in) in total length. The record is 207 cm (81.5 in). The Mud Snake is smooth scaled. The tip of the Mud Snake's tail has a pointed, hardened scale which is used to prod prey into position so the snake can swallow it. This pointed scale has earned the Mud Snake the nicknames of "Horn Snake" and "Stinging Snake."

Life Cycle

The Mud Snake breeds in April and May. Eight weeks later, the female lays 4 - 104 eggs in a nest chamber excavated in moist soil under a log or in a mound of soil above the water table. Females with eggs have been found in abandoned alligator nests. The female remains with the eggs until they hatch, presumably to protect them from predators. The eggs hatch in September and October. The young average about 21.5 cm (8.5 in) in length.

Natural History

The Mud Snake is secretive, and mostly nocturnal. The Mud Snake is probably active year round in its aquatic habitat and also burrows into loose soils at anytime of year. This species inhabits streams, cypress swamps, ponds, marshes, and canals. Aquatic vegetation and submerged logs in these locations provide cover. Amphiumas and Sirens are its principal foods, but other salamanders and their larvae, tadpoles, frogs, and fish are also eaten. On warm, rainy nights Mud Snakes will commonly cross roadways near their aquatic habitats. The Kingsnake, Cottonmouth, and American Alligator are predators of Mud Snakes.

Range

Mud Snake Region Map The Mud Snake range from southern Virginia to the south - central coast of Texas along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains, and as far north as Illinois and Indiana up the Mississippi Valley. In Georgia this snake can occur anywhere within the Coastal Plain in suitable habitat.

Conservation Status

This snake is probably a common species, but because of its aquatic and burrowing nature, it is not often seen.

Similar Species

The Rainbow Snake has three red stripes on the back and a double row of black spots on the belly.