Rough Green Snake

Photographed in situ [1]

Being slender, green, and arboreal, Opheodrys cannot be confused with any other North American snakes. Only two species are in the ‘green snake’ genus: the rough green snake (O. aestivus) and the smooth green snake (O. vernalis), the latter which has sadly been extirpated from Missouri. Just like in my previous post about earth snakes, rough and smooth counterparts can be distinguished by the presence of keeled scales, but otherwise have a strikingly similar appearance. Both Opheodrys species are opportunistic insectivores, feeding mostly on grasshoppers, crickets, and the like, but they will also take frogs, snails, and other small critters. As diurnal visually-oriented predators, they locate prey via movement and will stalk rapidly until reaching a close distance. When just a couple of centimeters away, the anterior portion of the snake coils as the posterior catches up, culminating in an outward strike.

Rough green snakes have a cryptic lifestyle, hiding amongst cluttered branching vegetation. Although they lack a muscular build, green snakes are proficient climbers and can use their prehensile tails to wrap around branches while stretching upwards. Opheodrys aestivus is almost exclusively found near bodies of water, most often along riverbanks and the edges of woodlands. Together with observations of green snakes drinking water directly from the ground and from damp substrates, their microhabitat preference suggests an affinity to water. Rough green snakes are not commonly found far from water sources, but in such cases they will drink from dew droplets on leaves. This individual was the furthest I’ve ever found from water, probably about 100 meters or so. In contrast to many snakes, Opheodrys do not usually bask in direct sunlight, possibly owing to their reliance on camouflage among leaves and branches. During the day they easily avoid detection, but at night they can be more easily spotlighted as they sleep, coiled parallel to their branch of choice.

Photographed in situ [1]
Photographed after disturbance [4]
Photographed after disturbance [4]

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