Recognized Subspecies in VA: Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus) | Midwestern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus helenae)
Size: 7.5 - 11 inches
Range: Eastern subspecies is found statewide; Midwestern subspecies found only in Lee Co.
Status: Least Concern
It lives in the soil, yet it is as shiny and iridescent as a diamond. Eastern Wormsnakes are fun, easy to ID, little snakes with a lot of spunk. I always found these around the house as a kid, and this is one of the snakes that started my life as a herper. Even my mother, who is afraid of snakes will admit the Wormsnakes are cute. These snakes are Dipsadines, which I would say is the family of the oddball snakes; and they are no exception. They have eyes, but they are like little pin-pricks. There is no real iris and pupil, just a black, glassy eye. It is speculated that these eyes can only detect light and not actually see. And why would they? The Wormsnake forages for Earthworms and ant nest under the soil. They use chemical trails to locate prey. If they happen to poke their head out of the soil and detect light, they know they are exposed to predators and must cover back up. The Wormsnake's main defense is not being found. If this does not work and a human picks a Wormsnake up. They have a few other methods. First they will musk. And honestly, its not as bad as most other snakes... It is foul smelling, but it is usually more subtle and washes off quite easily. Their last line of defense is to squirm and poke you with their toughest weapon. The Wormsnake has a spine on their tail like their Dipsadine cousin the Mud Snake. This spine is typically used to hook prey and move it down the throat of the snake. In defense the snake will prod a predator with this caudal spine, likely to confuse the predator into thinking the head is on the other end and is biting them. That said, the Wormsnake is so small, this does not hurt... One can feel it, but it does not have any chance of puncturing the skin. It is similar to when you scratch an itch gently, but its over the area of a pinhead.
The best way to find Wormsnakes is by flipping rocks, boards, logs, and under bark. Often I find them in logs that break when flipping. I do not (and am not suggesting) break logs on purpose, but it happens a fair bit. Look for areas of rich soil, as rich soil harbors rich life such as worms. In these areas, the Wormsnake is the most abundant snake species. We will often find several in an area, and find the species on future visits as well.
The Wormsnake is smooth, and silky in texture. They are a gray to brown with a contrasting, plain, pink venter. They have small heads that are fairly flat. Juveniles will usually be darker on the dorsal, often slaty, with a brighter red underside.
Similar Species: Earthsnakes are similar, as well as any other small, patternless snake. All of our other native small snakes lack a spined tail (not great if tail-tip is missing) or a pink belly. Our other snakes have normal eyes as well, with clear "whites" and pupils.
Maps and External Sources
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