|Rough green snake Opheodrys aestivus|
|Rough green snake|
Opheodrys aestivus, commonly known as the rough green snake, is a nonvenomous North American colubrid. It is sometimes called grass snake or green grass snake, but these names are more commonly applied to the smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis). The European colubrid called grass snake (Natrix natrix) is unrelated. The rough green snake is docile, often allowing close approach by humans, and seldom bites.
The rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) is bright green above and has a yellowish belly, affording it excellent camouflage in green vegetation. It has keeled dorsal scales, which are arranged in 17 rows at midbody. It grows up to 116 cm (45½ inches) in total length and is very thin.
The rough green snake ranges throughout the Southeastern United States, from Florida, north to New Jersey, Indiana, and west to Central Texas. The snake is commonly found in the Piedmont and Atlantic coastal plain, but is not found in the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. It is also found in northeastern Mexico, including the state of Tamaulipas and eastern Nuevo León.
Its preferred habitat is moist meadows and woodlands, often near water. It is highly arboreal, frequently found climbing in low vegetation, and is also a good swimmer. However, it is often found on the ground as well. Unlike many snakes, it is largely diurnal.
Its diet consists mostly of insects and other terrestrial arthropods, but some snails and tree frogs are eaten as well. This snake is not a constrictor—most prey are grabbed and simply swallowed alive.
The rough green snake breeds in spring, and sometimes again in fall. Females lay 2-14 eggs, occasionally in a communal nest shared by more than one female. Up to 75 eggs have been found in one such nest. The nest site varies: under boards, under bark in rotting stumps, in deep mulch, or under a rock. Hatchlings from spring breeding typically emerge in August or September, and are about 18–20 cm (7-8 inches) in total length.
The rough green snake is widespread and is not of conservation concern, in general. However urban development, especially the reduction of vegetation near waterways, may reduce their numbers. Many are killed on roads, and they may be susceptible to poisoning by pesticides used on their insect prey. When dead, they turn blue. They are also one of the most exploited pet snakes in North America. O. aestivus are collected by the hundreds each year and wholesale for around eight dollars in U.S. currency making it a very accessible species to pet shops and later to the pet owner.
- Northern rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus aestivus (Linnaeus, 1766)
- Florida rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus carinatus Grobman, 1984
- Boulenger, G.A. 1894. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History), Volume II., Containing the Conclusion of the Colubridæ Aglyphæ. Trustees of the British Museum. London. xi + 382 pp., Plates I.- XX. (Contia æstiva, p. 258.)
- Stejneger, L., & T. Barbour. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 125 pp. (Opheodrys aestivus, p. 78.)
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- Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 365 pp. (Opheodrys aestivus, pp. 118–120, Figure 27. + p. 332, Plate 12.)
- University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecological Laboratory, Animal Fact Sheets—accessed 1 June 2006
- University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecological Laboratory, Reptiles and Amphibians of South Carolina and Georgia—accessed 1 June 2006
- Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London. 1105 pp. (in 2 volumes) (Opheodrys aestivus, pp. 551–555, Map 43., Figure 164.)
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