Smooth Greensnake - Opheodrys vernalis

<em>smooth greensnake</em> Photo by Carol Hall
<em>smooth greensnake</em> photo of smooth greensnakes
<em>smooth greensnake</em> photo of smooth greensnakes

Liochlorophis vernalis

The Smooth Greensnake is a small species ranging from 12 to 22 inches in length. This snake has brilliant green dorsal scales with no other markings or stripes. Rarely, some individuals are brown or buff colored. The ventral scales are white or pale yellow. The dorsal scales are smooth (unkeeled) and the anal plate is divided. Newly hatched Smooth Greensnakes are dull olive colored until after their first few sheds.

This species may be found throughout Minnesota except perhaps the northeastern corner.

This species utilizes a wide variety of habitats including prairies, grasslands, moist meadows, and upland coniferous or mixed forests. It appears to prefer open grassy upland areas in the vicinity of water features such as a lakes, rivers, or impoundments.

Biology / Life History
The Smooth Greensnake is active from April to October. It is primarily diurnal and terrestrial. It feeds upon invertebrates such as caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, and small spiders. They mate in the spring and females may lay 3 to 15 eggs in June or July, or retain the eggs until just before they hatch. Eggs laid in June will hatch in July or early August. Overwintering takes place underground below the frost line in burrows, road embankments, ant mounds, or rock crevices. When approached, these snakes may remain motionless relying upon their excellent camouflage to avoid detection. Some will flee a short distance and then freeze, effectively disappearing in vegetation. They rarely bite as a means of self defense.

Conservation / Management
The major threat to the Smooth Greensnake's conservation is habitat destruction and degradation. Agriculture is the primary threat, but urban sprawl and road mortality also affect this species. The use of pesticides probably has a negative impact on Smooth Greensnake populations due to their insectivorous diet.

Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
All of the counties within the known range of the Smooth Greensnake in the state have been surveyed by the Minnesota DNR County Biological Survey, however, this species is often difficult to locate and therefore public reports are greatly appreciated.

Submit reports to:

Email report: [email protected]

Toll free MCBS Animal Report Line: 1-888-345-1730


Ernst, C.H., and E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.

Oldfield, B., and J. J. Moriarty. 1994. Amphibians and reptiles native to Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 237 pp.

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