Rough Green Snake

Category: Wildlife

Rough green snakes can be found in the high grass, bushes, or tree lines close to waterways. They are often caught by adventuresome children due to their tendency to move about during the day and their generally docile nature. They are frequently caught for the pet trade but often do not fare well, either because those who purchase them do not understand their needs or their primarily insectivore diet is difficult to maintain.

Rough Green Snake

Rough Green Snake

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Reptilia

Order - Squamata

Suborder - Serpentes

Family – Colubridae

Genus – Opheodrys

Species – O. aestivus

Common names – Rough green snake, grass snake

Characteristics

The name rough green snake comes from the fact that their scales are keeled, giving it a textured appearance and distinguishing it from the smooth green snake (O. vernalis).This species is primarily arboreal and it can be found at lower elevations in the eastern US and into Mexico. They have a solid bright green color with little variation and their bellies are a milky yellow or white. They can reach nearly four feet in length but they are very slim, as is normal for tree dwelling snakes, and the females are slightly larger than the males. They prefer woodlands and wetter areas and do not often venture into areas frequented by humans. They have a short life expectancy of only 5-8 years.

Breeding

Roughs lay eggs in rotten logs or vegetation and they may occasionally even share a nest with other females, despite the fact that they are solitary snakes. Each female can lay between 3-12 eggs, which incubate for 5-12 weeks. The short gestation period is due to the fact that the eggs are well developed by the time the female lays them. The young, which average about five inches, have the same coloration as adults, only the green is slightly paler. There is no parental investment with the young and they are left to fend for themselves after hatching.

Behavior

Whereas many snakes are nocturnal, rough green snakes actually prefer the day and the species is considered diurnal. While they may occasionally eat small amphibians, their preferred diet is insects, which they do not constrict but consume alive. They tend to be docile snakes and rarely bite in defense, instead preferring to retreat into the brush or trees and use their coloration for camouflage.

History

Snakes evolved sometime during the Cambrian period, diverging from either legged terrestrial ancestors or - less likely - from aquatic reptiles such as mosasaurs. There are some less evolved species such as pythons that still internally display remnants of the lost limbs.

Present Status

Rough green snakes are not considered under threat, but there could be future problems with habitat loss and the consumption of insecticides from their prey. While many are still caught for the pet trade, there is a movement to have more captive bred animals available.

References

  1. The Atlas of Snakes of the World by John Coborn
  2. A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina by Michael E. Dorcas
  3. Basic Care of Rough Green Snakes by Philippe de Vosjoli
  4. San Diego Zoo
  5. Green Snakes (Herpetology series) by W. P. Mara