The Good Snakes
Kathleen Mack, Texas Master Naturalist, Indian Trail Chapter
We have all read about poisonous snakes and understand the danger they represent, but did you know that there are far more “good snakes” than bad? Let me introduce you to a few of them.
Meet the Common King Snake (Lampropeltis getula). This snake has smooth almost glossy scales and has a black or black brown background with yellow or whitish coloring.
This snake is normally 18 to 36 inches long, but could grow larger. He can bite or emit a foul smell when threatened, but both are relatively harmless. The reason you should like this guy is his diet. He eats other snakes, most notable, copperheads and rattlesnakes. That’s right, he eats the bad guys. He also eats rodents and lizards. So, if you see this reptile in your garden, let him go his way. He is definitively your friend.
Now, meet the Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii). He is one of the most common large snakes found in this area. While the juveniles are colored with brown blotches on a gray background, the adult’s dark gray to black blotches will be on a red, orange, yellow, or even white background, giving this guy a wide range of colors. Adults are usually from 4 to 6 feet long. This reptile is a constrictor and is not venomous, but can be very aggressive if cornered and will bite. They eat any kind of rodent, bird or bird’s egg. Because of their ability to keep the rodent population down, they are very beneficial to have around.
Another “good snake” is the Common Ground Snake (Sonora semiannulata). He is a small, harmless colubrid snake found in Texas and the Southwestern United States. Its coloration can vary widely. The have fairly smooth scales, a small head and eyes with round pupils. Most only grow to 10 to 15 inches. They are primarily nocturnal. Their diet is invertebrates. So, if you want to get rid of spiders, scorpions and centipedes, this is the fellow you want to keep around. They also eat insect larva.
Of course, we all know the Garden Snake, or more correctly the Garter Snake (Thamnophi). While most of us think of this fellow as green, he actually comes in a wide variety of colors. He is commonly called a garden snake, because that is where he is most likely to be found. He is a colubrid snake (the most common family of snakes), that feeds on insects, such as grass hoppers, or worms, small rodents and even frogs. Most people don’t mind finding this snake, because he is harmless and helps protect the plants from those nasty insects.
Another snake worth mentioning is the Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis dulcis).This snake looks like a shiny earth worm and is often mistaken for one. You will often find him in loose soil, or crawling on your patio after a rain. You truly want to leave this guy alone since he is totally harmless and eats mainly termite and ant larvae.
This is just a small list of the good snakes. A good website for additional information is: www.herpsoftexas.org. It is also wise to be able to identify the bad guys. A great source of information on identifying local poisonous snakes is: www.texaspoison.com/snakes.asp. In either case, the best thing to do with both good and bad snakes is simply leave them alone.
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy, Red Oak, TX. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.