Dekay's Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
Recognized Subspecies in VA: None
Size: 8 - 15 inches
Range: Statewide, but rare in Southwest VA
Status: Least Concern
If you have ever spent hours in a garden within their range, you have or will see this small snake. Dekay's Brownsnakes love gardens because the moister draws their favorite food: slugs. Too often these small snakes are mistaken for Copperheads, but their patterns are so distinct; it proves that pure terror is what drives most snake misidentifications. This is a great example of a snake you want in your garden. They are too small to hurt if they were to bite, and they are mostly eating those pesky slugs. This species is often the victim of cats, lawnmowers/weed-eaters, road fatalities, and even garden accidents (ex. cut in half by a shovel when you are digging a whole) as they are too small to stand out and they are often on the surface. Dekay's Brownsnakes love to hide under debris, but they are not quite fossorial like most small snakes are.
This species can often be found by flipping debris or road cruising on wet nights. Sometimes they can be found by raking leaves. I have noticed to that many tend to have an iridescent sheen across the cranium area that is visible in the right lighting.
Similar Species: Dekay's Brownsnakes are very similar to their cousin the Red-bellied Snake, but Red-bellies tend to have stripes instead of spot-rows. If you are truly stumped you can always pick the snake up. Red-bellied Snakes will have a yellow to red belly and rarely black. Dekay's Brownsnakes will have a pearl-white belly. Often Common Gartersnakes are confused for these snakes, but Garters will have 2 distinct rows of "checkers" or a thick black line on either side of the mid-dorsal stripe instead of one.
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