Pituophis melanoleucus

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Pituophis melanoleucus
Suwanee County FL Pine Snake.jpg
Suwanee County, FL - pine snake
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Pituophis
P. melanoleucus
Binomial name
Pituophis melanoleucus
(Daudin, 1803)
  • Coluber melanoleucus Daudin, 1803
  • Churchilla bellona Baird & Girard, 1852
  • Pituophis bellona Baird & Girard, 1852[2]

Pituophis melanoleucus, commonly known as the pine snake, is a nonvenomous species of colubrid endemic to the southeastern United States. Three subspecies are currently recognized.

Taxonomy and etymology[edit]

P. m. mugitus, Florida pine snake

Three subspecies are currently recognized: the nominate subspecies P. m. melanoleucus (Daudin, 1803), the northern pine snake; P. m. lodingi (Blanchard, 1924), the black pine snake; and P. m. mugitus (Barbour, 1921), the Florida pine snake.[3]

The subspecific name lodingi is in honor of Danish-born amateur herpetologist Peder Henry Löding (1869-1942), who lived in Alabama.[4]

The species has a variety of common names, including: pine snake, pinesnake,[3] common pine snake, bullsnake, black and white snake, carpet snake, chicken snake, common bullsnake, eastern bullsnake, eastern pine snake, horn(ed) snake, New Jersey pine snake, North American pine snake, northern pine snake, pilot snake, and white gopher snake.[5]


Florida pine snake, close-up of the head

Adults are large, growing to 48–100 in (120–250 cm) in length and are powerfully built. The head is small and somewhat pointed with an enlarged rostral scale that extends upward between the internasal scales. Usually, four prefrontal scales are seen. At midbody are 27-37 rows of keeled dorsal scales.[6] The anal plate is single.[7] The color pattern consists of a light ground color overlaid with black, brown, or reddish-brown blotches.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is found in the United States in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware and Virginia.[5][7] The nominate subspecies occurs in southern New Jersey, southern North Carolina west through South Carolina to northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky and south into Alabama. P. m. lodingi occurs from southwestern Alabama to eastern Louisiana, overlapping with P. m. mugitus from southern South Carolina to Georgia and southern Florida.[2] A population of the subspecies, originating from released or escaped pets, has established itself in the Netherlands in the coastal dunes and dune forests around Wassenaar.[8]

The pine snake inhabits pine flatwoods, sandy pine-oak woodlands, prairies, cultivated field, open brushland, rocky desert and chaparral. It occurs from sea level to an elevation of 9,000 ft (2,700 m).[6] The pine snake requires well-drained, sandy soils with little vegetation for use as nesting and hibernation sites.[1]


Florida pine snake with a light pattern

The pine snake preys on rats, mice, moles and other small mammals and eggs.[5] It often enters rodent burrows in search of a meal. In these cases, multiple kills are frequent, with the snake pressing the mice against the walls of the burrow.[9] The snake remains underground in cold weather or during the heat of summer days.[1]

When disturbed, it often hisses loudly, sometimes flattening its head, vibrating its tail, and eventually striking at an intruder.[6] To make the rattling sound, the snake forces air out of its lungs, vibrating the epiglottis.[10]


After mating has taken place in spring, clutches of three to 24 eggs are laid in June–August. The eggs are deposited in sandy burrows or under large rocks or logs and hatch after 64–79 days of incubation.[6] The eggs are adherent and quite large, up to 66 mm (2.6 in) long by 45 mm (1.8 in) wide. Hatchlings measure 33–45 cm (13–18 in).[5]

Southern pine snake eggs

Conservation status[edit]

Florida pine snake

The pine snake is classified as least concern on the IUCN Red List, due to its wide distribution and large number of subpopulations; while the total populations appears to be declining, this is likely happening at a slow rate. However, the species is thought to be impacted by continued habitat degradation and destruction. It is present in a variety of protected areas.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hammerson, G.A. (2007). "Pituophis melanoleucus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2007: e.T63873A12723588. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b Pituophis melanoleucus at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Pituophis melanoleucus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  4. ^ Beolens, B; Watkins, M; Grayson, M (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5.
  5. ^ a b c d Wright AH; Wright AA (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada (7th printing, 1985 ed.). Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates. pp. 589, 609–621. ISBN 0-8014-0463-0.
  6. ^ a b c d e Behler JL; King FW (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 644–645. ISBN 0-394-50824-6.
  7. ^ a b Conant R (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America (Second ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0-395-19979-4.
  8. ^ "Vondst Amerikaanse wurgslang is geen toeval: 'Er zitten er veel meer'". Omroep West (in Dutch). Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  9. ^ Mehrtens, JM (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  10. ^ "The Northern Pinesnake". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barbour T. 1921. The Florida Pine Snake. Proc. New England Zoöl. Club 7: 117118. (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus, new subspecies).
  • Blanchard FN. 1924. A Name for the Black Pituophis of Alabama. Pap. Michigan Acad. Sci., Arts, Letters 4: 531-532. (Pituophis lodingi, new species).
  • Daudin, F.M. 1803. Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles..., Tome Sixième [Volume 6]. Paris: F. Dufart. 447 pp. + Plates I-X. (Coluber melanoleucus, new species, p. 409.) (in French).

External links[edit]