Dekay's Brownsnake

Brownsnake adult-1

Dekay's Brownsnake adult

As a kid many of the books I read about snakes referred to this species (which is still just called Brown snake by many herpetologists) as the “city snake,” suggesting it could easily be encountered in vacant lots, around apartment buildings, or under trash. I never found one in the urban areas of Holyoke or Springfield. Once we moved to the “country” in Willimansett, Dekay’s Brownsnakes (and other species) appeared and I was delighted. 

However, the Dekay’s snake does not appear that abundant to me, though they are found throughout Western Mass. Sitting in a meadow in Hawley one late afternoon watching turkeys forage nearby I glanced down and see a Dekay’s snake working its way through the vegetation at sunset. It ignored me and crawled past giving every indication it knew where it was going. It disappeared into thicker plant growth and I lost sight of it about 10 minutes later.

Brown Snake in grass

To find Dekay’s Brownsnake, most of the time one needs to “bend and turn” — an important research technique of young herpetologists but a more problematic effort for older ones (eventually disappearing as a lost art). The snakes can be found in meadows under debris (when biologists put out "trash" they're called cover-boards), including rocks, logs, loose bark, and people trash.

Often found with Redbelly and Ringnecks, there is little information about interactions between these small and somewhat secretive species. Are they competitors for food, shelter, or basking areas? Do they partition their resources like warbler guilds? Do they congregate for other reasons? Somebody really ought to figure out how these snake's live!

  © Tom Tyning 2013