Photo Credit: Scott Gravette
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carphophis amoenus ssp.
OTHER NAME: None
STATUS: Fairly common. Known from most regions except portions of Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Ridge and Valley. A secretive small woodland snake of mesic deciduous forest. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: There are two subspecies of worm snakes, Eastern worm snake Carphophis amoenus amoenus and Midwest worm snake Carphophis amoenus helenae. Worm snakes Carphophis amoenus ssp. are small secretive snakes only reaching 13 inches in length. They have a pointed head and very noted tiny black eyes. They also have a prominent sharp tip on the tail which is probably used for digging. The color varies from a dark brown to a pinkish brown on the back and almost always with a pinkish belly. Worm snakes greatly resemble earthworms which is how they got their name.
DISTRIBUTION: The range of the worm snake is from Georgia across to Louisiana north to Illinois and east to Massachusetts. They are fairly common throughout most of Alabama, though they are seldom encountered.
HABITAT: Worm snakes are fossorial in nature, in other words, they spend most of their life underground. They will also burrow into rotting logs and stumps, and can often be found under rocks. Worm snakes prefer damp forested soils with abundant leaf litter. However they can be found anywhere earthworms are found including fields and backyards.
FEEDING HABITS: The worm snake primarily eats earthworms. They will also feed on small salamanders, slugs, snails and insect larvae.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Worm snakes spend the majority of their life underground or beneath rocks, logs and leaf litter. Very little is known about the life history of worm snakes because of their fossorial nature. They probably breed in spring and fall. One to eight eggs are laid under rocks or logs. They hatch in approximately seven weeks. The young are about 4 inches long and become full grown in 3 years. Predators include a variety of birds, small mammals, other snakes and even large salamanders and lizards.
Mirarchi, R.E., ed. 2004. Alabama wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: Aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa, 209 pp.
Mount, Robert H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn Printing Company, Auburn.
Author: Jim Schrenkel, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries.