snake biology

Description Biology

These tongue protruding, slithering creatures are amongst the most feared creatures in America. Thankfully, most snakes are not dangerous. The snakes encountered by most homeowners are only interested in eating, mice, rats, worms, salamanders and insects. These snakes just want to be left alone and sun themselves on a nice rock or dine on the available food. The very mention of snakes makes some people break out in a cold sweat. While I have always recommended in this column that people have appropriate fear/respect of wildlife, the paranoia about snakes is simply remarkable. Unfortunately this paranoia about snakes has led to the demise of many snakes.I would like this page to help you learn about snakes and their importance to the environment. Hopefully, through education we can begin to have a more responsible attitude toward these important creatures.

How often does a snake shed its skin?

Snakes shed their skin because they are growing in size. Generally, they will shed their skin more quickly when they are young and maturing. They will also shed more when they are well fed. One snake owner stated that his snakes will shed every few weeks.

Massachusetts and New England Snakes

According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, there are only 14 kinds of snakes native to the state. These are the Common Garter Snake, Eastern Ribbon Snake, Ringneck Snake, Redbelly Snake, Brown Snake, Worm Snake, Black Racer, Black Rat Snake, Smooth Green Snake, Eastern Hognose Snake, Milk Snake, Northern Water Snake, Copperhead, and Timber Rattlesnake. Of these snakes, 5 are protected due to their endangered status. These endangered snakes are the Timber Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Eastern Hognose Snake, Black Rat Snake and the Worm Snake. If you happen to see any of these snakes, you should cherish the moment because they are rare indeed. In my travels, I have not encountered any of them. If you would like to learn more about snakes why not get a copy of the Massachusetts Guide to Snakes listed on our books page click Animal Identification

Some people are concerned about snakes because they might be poisonous. Let me put your fears to rest. There are only two snakes in the state that are poisonous, the Timber Rattlesnake and the Copperhead. Both are so rare in the state that even coming across one would be almost a miracle. But if you did, chances are you wouldn’t be bitten. Neither of these two snakes are particularly aggressive. In the extremely small chance that you were bitten, it would be even more unlikely that the bite would be fatal. To put all this in perspective, you have a better chance of winning megabucks than you do of dying from a poisonous snake. If you are bitten by a snake, whether poisonous or not be sure to treat the wound with soap and water and apply an antibacterial ointment to prevent infection.


The two snakes that you are most likely to encounter around your home  or garden are the Common Garter garter snakes (not garden) snake and the Eastern Ribbon Snake. At first glance it is difficult to tell them apart. Here are a few clues. The Garter snake has two rows of alternating black spots. His tail also isn’t as long as the Ribbon Snake. The Ribbon snake by contrast has a tail that is about a third of its total length. Measure the length by starting from the end of the tip to where the snake’s body width stops widening. The Ribbon snake also has three yellow stripes that run the length of his body. The Ribbon snake also exhibits a more slender body than the Garter snake.

Both snakes mate in April and May. Ribbon Snakes give birth to 10-12 live young in the months of July or August. Garter Snakes give birth to 12-40 live young between July and October. These snakes may seem slimy to handlers because they secrete a foul musk when threatened. Unless you are a worm or a frog or other small creature, these snakes are not a threat. Generally speaking you are more of a threat to them than vice versa. This fact includes pets, which are more likely to kill the snakes than be injured by them.


Non-New England Poisonous Snakes

We just learned that Southern ringneck snake can live and nest in attics. One client who purchased snake traps starting finding 18 inch snakes in early September.

Controlling Snakes

snake traps Controlling Snakes snake books



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