Photo Credit: John D. Wilson
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Regina rigida sinicola
STATUS: Fairly common in Coastal Plain, except extreme northwestern portions. Believed to be stable throughout most of its distribution. Lowest Conservation Concern.
OTHER NAMES: Brown-banded leather snake, brown water snake, delta crayfish snake, delta crayfish water snake, glossy crayfish water snake, Gulf crayfish snake, Gulf crayfish water snake, Gulf glossy water snake, Holbrook’s water snake, queen snake, rigid queen snake, stiff snake, striped moccasin, striped water snake two-lined water snake. This species has many common names and some don’t refer to the subspecies present in Alabama. This list also includes common names best associated with other species altogether. Today, the common name used most often by herpetologists is glossy crayfish snake.
DESCRIPTION: A small and slender snake. The back is typically olive green although it may appear almost yellow close to the belly. A couple narrow stripes may be seen running down the length of the body. The belly is light colored with two rows of dark spots that unite to become one as they approach the animal’s throat. Scales are keeled.
DISTRIBUTION: Ranging throughout the southeastern United States Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Texas. In Alabama, the species can be found roughly south of the fall line (i.e. within the southern half of the state).
HABITAT: Highly aquatic, glossy crayfish snakes can be observed in many different wetland types but may be most often encountered in areas with a high density of aquatic vegetation and mucky substrates.
FEEDING HABITS: As its common name suggests, glossy crayfish snakes feed primarily on crayfish.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Much of what know of this animal is from incidental observations, so it’s therefore difficult to determine general trends. Crayfish burrows may be used as underground refugia and snakes may be found by examining mats of vegetation or lifting cover objects around wetlands. They may also occasionally be seen on the roads after rain. The species gives birth to live young, probably averaging around 8-10 individuals.
Gibbons, J. W. and M. E. Dorcas. 2004. North American Watersnakes: A Natural History. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.
Mount, R. 1975. The Reptiles & Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn Printing Co., Auburn, AL.
AUTHOR: David A. Steen, Ph.D. Candidate, Auburn University