Green Snakes in Maine

By Nancy Hayden

As one of the most northern states in the U.S., Maine has harsh, long winters which are not suitable for certain animals. Because of the colder climate, only 10 species of snake are found in the state. The most recognizable species of the 10 — the smooth green snake — has a striking, bright green color that distinguishes it from Maine's other snakes.

Description

The smooth green snake is a slender-bodied species that grows to around 2 feet in length. Its small head is generally just slightly wider than the neck. The snake has a striking, bright green coloration along its back with a paler yellow to white underbelly. As the name suggests, the snake's scales are smooth. Juveniles tend to be brown to olive in color but generally become more green as they age. Some adults keep their juvenile coloring for their entire life. When the snake dies, the combination of yellow and blue pigments in its skin that make its green color fade. The yellow color is first to fade, so dead snakes turn blue.

Habitat and Range

Unlike the black racer, which is endangered in the state, the smooth green snake is stable and likely found throughout Maine. Outside of Maine it ranges from northeastern Canada down the East Coast as far south as Virginia and west to Illinois. Its coloring gives a clue to its preferred habitat of grasslands, in which it is easily camouflaged. The snake is also found in forested areas, where it often hides under logs and rocks.

Diet and Predators

As such a small snake species, the smooth green snake is mainly insectivorous, feeding on crickets, beetles and spiders. The snake also sometimes feeds on small amphibians. It is a nonvenomous snake that uses sight, smell and vibrations to find small prey. The snake's only defense against predators is its camouflage and a musky liquid it can secrete. This musk is unpleasant but not a highly effective deterrent, so an array of predatory birds feed on the snakes as do foxes, raccoons and even milk snakes, which are also native to Maine.

Life Cycle

The snakes are solitary for most of the year but will hibernate in groups with others of its kind or of a different species. Breeding brings the snakes together in spring to late summer, with the female laying between three to 13 eggs in burrows made through rotted vegetation. Hatching can take as little as four days or as much as a month. Life spans for the smooth green snake in the wild are unknown, but the oldest captive individual was 6 years old.