What is a Pine Snake?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

A pine snake, or Pituophis melanoleucus, is a large non-venomous snake found primarily in the United States. Three subspecies of this snake, each with a slightly different coloring, can be found scattered throughout the southeastern part of the country. Although they are mostly found burrowed into the ground in pine forests, this snake can also be found in oak forests and flat fields.

Commonly known as a northern pine snake, P. m. melanoleucus is usually an off-white color with very dark brown or black splotches on it back. It can be found in some areas of southern Virginia and southeastern Kentucky. It's primary home, however, ranges from North Carolina south to Georgia, as well as Alabama and Tennessee. The southern, or Florida, pine snake, also known as P. m. mugitus, can also be found in South Carolina and Georgia, but it can be found as far south as Florida, as well. This subspecies can be identified because it typically has a tan body with less-defined brown splotches.

Black pine snakes, known scientifically as P. m. lodingi, can be found in areas of southern Alabama, and range as far west as Mississippi. Unlike other subspecies of this snake, they are generally very dark. Some may be a very dark brown with black splotches, while others may be completely black.

Considered to be one of the largest species of snakes in North America, a pine snake has a thick, heavy body and can grow to be up to 8 feet (2.44 meters) in length. An average length for one of these snakes though, is usually somewhere around 5 feet (1.5 meters). Most of them have short tails and pointed noses, which are used to dig burrows. Although it does come out during the day to catch prey such as mice, rabbits, and birds, the pine snake spends much of its time underground, especially during extremely hot weather and hibernation.

In the spring, after the snakes have emerged from hibernation, they will mate. The female will then nest, sometimes with other female pine snakes, in a burrow or rocky crevice. Females will lay around three to five large eggs at a time, which are typically around 4 inches (10 centimeters) in length. Hatchlings that emerge from these eggs are also quite large, and can be up to 1 foot (30.5 centimeters) long.

A pine snake usually displays some very aggressive behavior when threatened or disturbed. Though they typically don't bite, it is not uncommon for pine snakes to strike at a potential threat. They will also vibrate their tail and hiss loudly.

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