Diversity among the three dozen or so species of Arkansas snakes can be attributed to more than a few factors. Having a Mississippi River eastern border and being a gateway state to both the South and the Midwest probably are the three most important contributing geographical facts.
For most snake enthusiasts, a quick look at the Arkansas snakes list reveals that most of the species are similar to the snake soecies in the neighboring states. Venomouns snakes such as rattlesnakes, copperheads and cotton mouths populate all of Arkansas.
Other common snakes such as ratsnakes, kingsnakes and gartersnakes also range across the state. No doubt, if you’ve read one article on the venomous snakes of Arkansas you’ve read them all. Most at least tangentially mention that all snakes are not bad and then provide a list of good things, such as rodent control, performed by local snakes.
Here’s a different take. This is a top ten list of the nicest Arkansas snakes. They are all nonvenomous and most if not all do not have household names such as gartersnake or milk snake. Keep your eyes open for these snakes because they inhabit most areas of the stat and cause humans almost no grief whatsoever.
The list starts witht the Flat-head snake pictured at the top of the page. Techinally it is one of eleven species of Black-head Snakes. All the species are regionally based, included the Flat-head. Cute as a button with its flat head, they also rank as the smallest of the Arkansas snakes, maybe an average of eight or nine inches. Flat-headed Snakes have pink bellies and it helps differentiate them from the earthsnakes.
In 2004, Copia, an academic journal published by The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists published an article called Diet and Prey Size of the Flathead Snake, Tantilla gracilis. The researchers concluded:
Approximately 80% of the diet (by frequency) of T. gracilis consisted of coleopteran (beetle) larvae of the families Alleculidae, Elateridae, and Tenebrionidae. Other prey were centipedes and terrestrial snails.
Talk about nice…get a couple of Flathead Snakes in the yard and no more worries about beetle grubs chewing up the lawn.
Smooth Earthsnakes (Virginia valeriae) are the only representative of the Virginia genera. It’s odd that a similar small, brown snake called the Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula) gets placed in a different genera. The rough have keeled scales, or a ridge on each of the scales. Both inhabit the same range in Arkansas.
Talk about nice…they spend most of their time underground in the forests minding their own business.
Western Wormsnake (Carphophis vermis) is a very small and thin snake that inhabits forested areas in most parts of Arkansas except for the lowlands adjacent to the Mississippi River. They only grow about a foot in length and consume worms.
Arkansas host two Storeria species:
- Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
- Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
Very nice snakes, they are willing to be friends with city dwellers.
Red-bellied snakes continue the tradition of nice, small Arkansas snakes. They live mostly in wooded areas and eat slugs, snails and other insects.
Mud Snake habitat ought to be easy to guess. These striking red and black bodied snakes live in the muddy waters of ponds, creeks, swamps and slow moving Arkansas streams close to the Mississippi. They mostly mind their own business, burrowed in the mud.
Snakes in the genus Regina (Queen Snakes and Gray Crayfish Snakes) are another of the common species in the Eastern United States that are less well known to the larger public. They inhabit most water areas of the East that host their primary food source, crayfish.
Because they share a range and habitat with cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) snakes, many tend to be unnecessarily killed.
The picture shows a Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata). Another nondescript species with a dull brown color and yellow stripe down the side. Typically it grows less than two feet in length. There’s only a small Arkansas population around the Ozarks. Even if they wanted to bite a human, their teeth are so small, most people would not notice it.
Two greensnake species are common in the East. The Rough Greensnakes (Opheodrys aestivus) is more of the southern species and an Arkansas resident. They are very slim, green snakes often seen in trees. Their diet consists of insects. What’s not nice about a thin green snake that eats insect pests?
The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus), another small Colubrid species found in Arkansas consists of two subspecies.
According to Arkansas Herps:
There are two subspecies in the state. The Prairie Ring-necked Snake (D. p. arnyi) has numerous randomly scattered black dots on its belly and a bright red or orange undertail. The Mississippi Ring-necked Snake (D. p. stictogenys) has black dots on its belly that are paired.
The dual color body, dark on the top and a bright shade of orange or yellow on the bottom serve as the best field identification clues. The picture highlights the snake’s characteristic ring neck mark.
While ring-neck snake bites are rare, touching them is not recommended. They can secrete a foul smelling chemical. If that’s the least pleasant thing that can be said about any of the ten snakes listed here, that’s pretty good.