Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae)

The Smooth Earth Snake is uncommon in most our area. They are usually found by turning rocks,
boards, logs, and bark, or, as with the one pictured here, old sheet metal that has been warmed in
the sun. They eat earthworms and probably small insects. The snake pictured here was found in the
Serpentine Barrens at Soldier's Delight Natural Environmental Area.
Smooth Earth Snakes may be more common than they appear. Because they are burrowing
snakes, spending most of their lives hidden from view under the ground, it is difficult to get an
accurate estimate of the size of a population. When they are above ground, their earthy brown
color and small size makes them very difficult to see.
Smooth Earth Snakes are non-venomous and usually very docile. I have never known them to attempt to
bite when picked up. Even if they did try to bite, their teeth are small enough that it is unlikely they would
break the skin.
The greatest threat to snakes and most other wildlife is habitat destruction. In the past, killing of snakes by
misinformed people was a big problem. Today most people seem to tolerate snakes, even enjoy seeing
them or catching them alive.  As the number of collectors and wildlife enthusiasts increases and the amount
of habitat decreases, well meaning collectors and wildlife lovers may be the second greatest threat to our
native reptiles and amphibians. It has become more and more important for us to be conscious of our impact
on wildlife, and to minimize our impact by watching from a respectful distance when possible. Handling,
disturbing, and capturing wildlife should be avoided or done responsibly if you feel you must get a close
I have found that many snakes, and other animals as well, can be observed in the same place day after
day, even year after year. Snakes will often bask in the same spot or rest in the same crevasse where
they can be observed for a summer or even several summers in a row. A very patient observer might even
be able to watch from a distance as they move to and from their roost and as they hunt for food, watch
their behavior change through the molting cycle, and get some insight into the daily life and behavior of