Today these three Eastern Worm Snakes were in our yard. I had never seen an Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus). My husband had only seen one in his life, that he saw as a kid while digging up worms for fishing.
They are said to grow to up to 11 inches in length. They are not commonly seen above ground during the day time and when they are spotted it is usually crossing roadways on wet nights or when someone is digging and accidentally digs one up. They live primarily underground on a diet of mostly worms and some other soft-bodied insects. They mate in the spring and in the fall and lay eggs in June-July. The females that breed in the fall delay fertilization until the next spring when they come out of hibernation. They are not known to bite humans. But they do have a stiff point to their tail that they are sometimes known to try to stab at their captors, in an attempt to get away.
As far as I could tell, two were breeding and a third was hanging around nearby, extremely interested in what was going on. Or perhaps the two intertwined were fighting over the third? I have no idea. The two were wrestling about, one was even biting the other, to the point of not even noticing us. But as I got close enough to try to video tape them, they froze perfectly still. They stayed in that position (except for the biting) and let me take a lot of photographs of them before finally I got too close and spooked them. Then they quickly darted straight down into the ground and disappeared as fast as you could snap your fingers. It was really something to see.
Here’s the first photo, just to give you perspective on how close the third was to the two that were intertwined. The third is toward the upper left hand corner of the photograph:
Next some close-ups of the two together:
Here is a photo of me taking a photo, just to give you a better idea of their actual size:
Eastern Worm Snakes are known for having scales that are smooth and opalescent. This was obvious in person, but not showing up quite as well on camera as I would have liked, mainly due to the fact that it was dusk and I was loosing light quickly. So I decided to take some with flash. Here are those photos, notice the opalescence.
As you can see they decided to hold still for me to photograph for quite some time. The third displayed his own, different, yet interesting behavior as well. The closer I got to the intertwined pair, the more interested in me he became. And he crept down to me ever so carefully, looking at me the entire time. When he was finally almost onto my foot I put a stick in front of him which startled him just enough that he slithered off up the hill. That was this photo:
There can be variances in color in the Eastern Worm Snake and this one was darker on the top and pinker on the bottom, than the other two.
What was truly interesting to me, was how this little fella would not leave. Not that I was trying to get him to, but normally if you startle a snake they either leave or they hide. He (she?) did neither. He slithered off a few feet up the hill and then once again started cautiously coming at me again. Again with a look of great curiosity. But this time with more speed to his return. Enough so that getting a non-blurry photograph of him was becoming very difficult. Here are some photos:
As he got right up on me again, I moved my hand in front of his face to stop him and he jumped and rapidly left again. As you can see here:
As you can sort of see in the above photo, he was whipping himself back and forth on top of the grass so quickly that he was only touching the tops of the grass as he moved away.
But again he only went a few feet, and then rapidly approached me again. It wasn’t an aggressive approach. I’m honestly not sure what he was thinking. We did this back and forth a few times. Finally the last time he approached me it was very quickly. As you can see below, he was a blur as I photographed his approach.
So this time we scooped him up and put him in a little holding tank so that I could finish photographing the other two, without him distracting me. And that is how I got the photos above of the first two.
Here he is confused in his little holding spot for a few minutes:
After the first two spooked and leapt into the ground, we were done and we released him back in the same spot. And he burrowed down into the grass.
All in all I found it very interesting. Not only did I get to see and photograph Eastern Worm Snakes for the first time, but I was able to watch them behave in ways that I have never seen a snake behave before. I honestly think that this third snake was as curious about me as I was about him. Perhaps it was his first encounter with a person. 😉
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Update 09-21-09 : I added a short video from this day. It is posted under September 21st, 2009. And it is also viewable from my You Tube Channel “natureblog“.
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