Broad-banded Water Snake

01 Mingo National Wildlife Refuge_9244

While visiting Snake Road in southern Illinois this month, I decided to take a drive to Missouri to see what sorts of herps were out. My first snake in “The Show-Me State” was a “lifer.” This distinctive looking reptile is heavy-bodied with a series of irregular, wide and dark bands across a background cream coloration. It was easy to identify even at a distance.

02 Broad-banded Water Snake_9271

Broad-banded Water Snakes can be found in and around lakes, ponds, streams, rivers and drainage ditches. This species is especially common in swamp and marsh habitats. It is at home in areas of thick vegetation, where both food and cover to escape fom predators is abundant.

03 Broad-banded Water Snake_9304

This species feeds primarily on fish and frogs. It uses stealth to move about vegetation and debris to find and catch its food. It commonly hunts at night, especially after it rains, because this is when frogs are most active.

04 Broad-banded Water Snake_9291

North American water snakes are thought to be most closely related to garter snakes, and like garter snakes, they do not lay eggs. Instead, the mother carries the eggs inside her body and gives birth to free-living young. The Broad-band averages generally an average of 15 babies per litter.

05 Broad-banded Water Snake_9315

It was exciting to come across this snake (which I’ve been keeping and breeding at home for years) in the wild for the first time.

Third Eye Herp

Blue Racer

01 Blue Racer_1830

In my home state of Ohio as well as while visiting the sandhill prairies of Kankakee, Illinois, I came across a few examples of this speedy serpent. Adults tend to range in length between 36 to 60 inches.

02 Blue Racer_1878

These snakes prefer open and semi-open habitat, though it is likely that a mix of habitats is required to fulfill their ecological needs. They can often be seen where the edge of a field meets a wooded area.

03 Blue Racer_1823

Baby and juvenile racers have dark-bordered, brown, red, or grey blotches on their backs and dark spots on their sides. As they grow, the background darkens to produce a basically unicolored reptile.

04 Blue Racer_1875

Adult Blue Racers can be varying shades of blue and gun-metal gray, with white belly scales, black masks, relatively large eyes and often brownish-orange snouts.

05 Blue Racer_1871

Their eyes are larger compared to that of many other species of snakes, due to the fact that they are day-active hunters that mainly use sight to locate their prey.

06 Blue Racer_1825

Adult Blue Racers feed on rodents, lizards, other snakes and frogs, while juveniles eat invertebrates such as spiders and crickets. As their “racer” name implies, they are swift in chasing down prey as well as fleeing from predators.

07 Blue Racer_7463

There aren’t very many blue-colored snakes out there in the world. This is always a fun snake for me to encounter, whether it be in my home state of Ohio, or while doing some out-of-state herping.

Third Eye Herp

Western Ground Snake

Western Ground Snake_1114

This is a neat little reptile that is highly variable in color and pattern. Individuals can be brown, red, or orange, with black banding, orange or brown striping, or be solid-colored.

Western Ground Snake_1099

It only grows to about a foot in length. Being so small and prone to dehydration, in the desert it tends to be found near sources of water. In the rest of the southwestern United States, its preferred habitat is dry, rocky areas with loose soil.

Western Ground Snake 2

These snakes are seldom seen in the open; they remain hidden under flat rocks during the day. They may become active on the ground surface at night. In hot weather, they burrow underground to find cooler temperatures and higher humidity.

Western Ground Snake_1100

The Western Ground Snake eats a variety of insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and lizards.

Western Ground Snake 1

It was awesome to come across this gentle, secretive species in the wild.

Third Eye Herp

Shawnee Kingsnake

winters pond_5414

While visiting southern Illinois, I came across two of these fine serpents basking only a few feet away from each other.


This snake is a naturally occurring intergrade between a Speckled Kingsnake and an Eastern Black Kingsnake. They have varying amounts of yellow speckles and in some cases a faint chain pattern on a dark body.

2013_10_08sr 249

Shawnee Kingsnakes average 36 to 48 inches in length and have shiny, smooth scales. One specimen that I found was going through a shed cycle and had eyes that appeared to be milky blue.


These reptiles are quite adaptable to a wide range of habitats from forests and bluffs, to rocky hills, open woods and stream valleys.

king_10_08sr 271

Shawnee Kingsnakes are powerful constrictors and predators of other reptiles, including snakes, as well as eating birds and small mammals.

king_10_08sr 247

They tend to be slow and deliberate in their movements. They are a fun snake to encounter in the wild and I enjoy seeing them each time I come across one.

Third Eye Herp

Red Milk Snake

Red Milk Snake_5475

I saw this beautifully colored serpent crossing Snake Road while visiting southern Illinois. It’s overall pattern is similar to the Eastern Milk Snake which I often find in my home state of Ohio.

Red Milk Snake_3626

Its body color can be white, gray, yellow or light tan, with red or orange black bordered blotches. Like the Eastern Milk Snake, its belly is strongly checkered in a pattern of black and white squares.

Red Milk Snake_3622

Red Milk Snakes are secretive and seldom seen out and about. They spend much of their time hiding under rocks and logs or in rodent burrows. They are not particularly large snakes, often only about two feet in length. They subdue their prey by constriction and feed on lizards, snakes and small mammals.

Red Milk Snake_3614

It’s always thrilling to come across this boldly marked, colorful snake in its natural environment.

Third Eye Herp

Eastern Black Kingsnake


Although this serpent lives in my home state of Ohio, it is uncommon there, listed as a “species of concern” and only found in a few counties. I’ve found several examples on different visits to various parts of Kentucky though.

Eastern Black Kingsnake 10 149

This is a shiny, mostly jet black snake with a white, yellow or cream belly. Some spotting may occur particularly along its lower sides. The adult length averages about 3-1/2 feet long. Like other Common Kingsnakes, its head is not significantly offset from its body.

Eastern Black Kingsnake 180

This species is a habitat generalist and can be found in hardwood and pine forests, bottomlands and swamps, farmlands, hillsides, meadows and suburban areas. Most of the examples I’ve found were under sheets of rusted metal in abandoned fields (including this one which has cloudy eyes because it is going through a shed cycle).

Eastern Black Kingsnake 0032

Eastern Black Kingsnakes are powerful constrictors eat a variety of different kinds of food, including snakes, lizards, rodents, birds and turtle eggs. They are resistant to the venom of pit-vipers and they readily eat copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes.

Eastern Black Kingsnake 05-10 153

Kingsnakes are one of my favorite snakes to find in the wild and encountering these handsome reptiles has always been a herping highlight.

Third Eye Herp

Western Blind Snake

Western Blind Snake_2775

While driving in southern California one night in late Spring, I saw this tiny creature making its way across the road. At first glance, the Western Blind Snake resembles a worm more than a snake.

Western Blind Snake 022

They rarely measure more than 10 inches in length and no wider than a shoelace. This snake is pink, purple, or silvery-brown in color, shiny, wormlike, cylindrical, and blunt at both ends. It has light-detecting black eyespots.

Western Blind Snake 037

Considered among the most primitive of snakes, slender blind snakes retain tiny remnants of pelvic bones embedded in their muscles as well as rudimentary leg bones. Another curious feature of their anatomy is that they only have teeth in their lower jaw.

Western Blind Snake 259

They frequent rocky hillsides with patches of loose, moist soil suitable for burrowing and canyon washes near streams. I have mainly found them under rocks near creeks in Nevada. Though it is probably quite common, the Western Blind Snake is rarely seen.

Western Blind Snake 263

Western Blind Snakes feed upon soft-bodied insects, especially ants and termites and their eggs and larvae. Its cylindrical shape and solid head allow it to easily enter the nests of its preferred prey. This unusual serpent is also know as the Slender Blind Snake and Western Threadsnake.

Third Eye Herp

Diamondback Water Snake

big muddy river

While visiting southern Illinois I have occasionally come across this semi-aquatic serpent.

Diamondback Water Snake_13675

They are heavy bodied with greenish-brown to brown hues and a dark net-like pattern formed by dark blotches along the back, with each spot being vaguely diamond-shaped. The blotches are connected by alternating dark bars on sides.

Diamondback Water Snake_2

Diamondback Water Snakes are non-venomous, but they can be extremely aggressive when cornered, striking and biting continuously until the danger goes away. Adults are typically three to four feet long.

Diamondback Water Snake_1558

Their range tends to be concentrated along the Mississippi River, as well as west into Texas and Mexico, east to Alabama, with smaller populations in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

Diamondback Water Snake_1516

A diurnal hunter, the Diamondback Water Snake trolls shallow shorelines and deeper water for prey. The diet mostly consists of frogs, toads, slow moving and small fish, which are eaten live. Carrion is also a common part of their diet.

Diamondback Water Snake_77877

Like other North American water snakes, the Diamondback Water Snakes give birth to live offspring, producing 20 or more babies in the late Summer or early Fall.

Third Eye Herp

Smooth Earth Snake

Smooth Earth Snake_7931

I had my first encounter with this very cool species while visiting southern Illinois. It is a small (7 to 10 inches) somewhat heavy-bodied, brown-to-gray snake with smooth scales and a pointed snout.

Smooth Earth Snake 040

The Smooth Earth Snake is found in a variety of forested habitats with plenty of ground cover, but is most common in moist deciduous forests and edge habitats. Smooth Earth Snakes mainly live underground and are most often found hiding beneath rocks and logs.

Smooth Earth Snake 031

This species feeds primarily on earthworms, but takes other small invertebrates such as insects and snails. It gives birth to to live young, producing as many as 14 offspring in the late summer.

Smooth Earth Snake 036

The Smooth Earth Snake is an uncommon secretive serpent with a scattered distribution, so I was glad to finally come across one in the field.

Third Eye Herp

Mississippi Green Water Snake

Mississippi Green Water Snake_1567

Here at Snake Road in southern Illinois, I am enjoying searching for a reptile that I have found on several occasions previously; it is only found in Union County and is listed as State Threatened.

Mississippi Green Water Snake 100

A medium-sized, dark-colored, heavy-bodied snake, the Mississippi Green Water Snake is greenish brown with numerous small, obscure olive-brown or dark brown markings. One might describe it as “drab”. The belly is dark gray with yellow half-moon-shaped markings.

Mississippi Green Water Snake_1903

Although not venomous, like other water snakes, it may bite viciously to defend itself as well as secrete a strong-smelling musk from glands at the base of the tail.

Mississippi Green Water Snake 086

A unique characteristic that differentiates Mississippi Green Water Snakes from other types of water snakes in the United States is the presence of a row of scales between the eye and upper lip scales.

Mississippi Green Water Snake 2

These snakes prefer large, permanent bodies of water, especially in open country and around open cypress lakes and marshes. Compared to other water snakes, they are more abundant where there’s heavy vegetation and water currents are slow.

Mississippi Green Water Snake_6991

It’s diet is a variety of fish, frogs, toads and salamanders. Mississippi Green Water Snakes are primarily nocturnal, searching for prey along banks of ponds or slow moving bodies of water at night.

Mississippi Green Water Snake 098

Like other North American water snakes, they give birth to live yong, usually numbering from 8-34, though as many as as many as 101 offspring were recorded in a single litter.

Third Eye Herp