Snakes of Massachusetts
Carphophis amoenus (7-11", up to 13")
MA Status: "Threatened." Illegal to harass, kill, collect or possess.
This small burrowing snake shares a superficial resemblance to an earthworm. The worm snake is an unpatterned brown snake with a pink belly, pointed head and small eyes. Smooth scales give it a shiny, iridescent quality, and readily distinguish it from brown and redbelly snakes that have keeled scales.
Worm snakes appear to mate in the fall. Females store the sperm over winter and use it to fertilize eggs in the spring or early summer. Eggs are deposited under rocks or inside mulch piles, rotting logs or stumps. A typical clutch consists of 2-5 small eggs. Eggs laid in June and early July generally hatch in August and September.
In Massachusetts, worm snakes have been found only in the southern Connecticut Valley where they prefer areas with sandy soil. Moist woodlands with either sandy or rocky soils provide the best habitat. They feed almost exclusively on earthworms, although other small slender prey such as salamanders, fly larvae and slugs are occasionally taken. Rarely seen in the open, worm snakes may be found under rocks and logs, but are often underground. Worm snakes are intolerant of dry conditions and often disappear from areas that have been cleared of vegetation. During the summer, they burrow deep into the ground or seek shelter under rocks or in rotting stumps or logs, and remain inactive until conditions improve. In hand, worm snakes will use their heads and hard pointed tails to probe, as if burrowing, for an escape route. They rarely bite but do produce a pungent odor from their anal glands.