What is a Ground Snake?

Sara Schmidt

The common ground snake is a small, crevice-dwelling reptile. These snakes are typically under 19 inches (48 cm) in length and are not poisonous to humans. Ground snakes are considered helpful animals to have around the home, as they eat many pests, such as scorpions, centipedes, and spiders.

Ground snakes eat centipedes and other household pests.
Ground snakes eat centipedes and other household pests.

Two genera of ground snakes exist. In South America, the Atractus genus can be found, while the Sonora genus inhabits North America. In North America, the types of snakes are found mostly in the Western, Southwestern, and Midwestern regions. These snakes prefer very dry or sandy areas, as well as river bed thickets.

Ground snakes often dine on crickets.
Ground snakes often dine on crickets.

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A small head and smooth scales are features of the snake. Sometimes the snakes have black heads, though their stomachs are typically pale in color. These snakes have divided anal plates and eyes with round pupils. Though the snake does have rear poisonous fangs, they are not considered threatening to humans.

Ground snakes can be difficult to identify, as they differ vastly in coloration. Base colors of the ground snake include red, orange, and brown. They can be solid in color or feature various patterns. Patterns may include banding, blotching, or striping.

So many different color variations once led scientists to believe that five species of the snake existed. After much research, however, it was discovered that colors had no bearing the snakes' breeding, making separate species nearly impossible to identify. Some scientists continue to refer to separate species of the snake by region.

These types of snakes are very secretive. Humans rarely get a glimpse of the ground snake, as it makes its home in tight crevices and rocks. If rocks and crevices are not available, the snakes will burrow beneath dense vegetation if necessary. The snakes are typically nocturnal, hunting for food at night.

Females can lay up to six eggs, which are laid in the summer months. Mating season typically takes place in both the spring and fall. Following seven to ten weeks of incubation, young snakes emerge at only 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) in length.

In addition to scorpions, spiders, and centipedes, the ground snake dines on many other insects and small animals. Insect larvae is considered a treat for the snakes. They also enjoy grasshoppers and crickets. Other names for this type of snake include western ground snake and variable ground snake. The snake's name may also be written as groundsnake.

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