Eastern Wormsnake — Threatened

Wormsnake on eak leave side view-1

Wormsnake (note tiny eyes and pointed tail tip)

This is one of the great and mysterious snakes of Western Massachusetts. It’s unlikely that more than 50 people have ever seen one under natural conditions. To say they are secretive is an understatement; one really has to bend over and search under rocks, boards, or dig into leaf litter. A kid from Springfield I met used to find half a dozen at a time when he turned the compost in his back yard (lucky stiff). Even if uncovered, they can be easily dismissed as an earthworm, Dekay’s, or Red-bellied snake. 

In addition, Wormsnake populations are known only from about 6 towns in the entire state and most of those are in lower Hampden County. They apparently eat earthworms, soft bodied insects, and perhaps slugs, snails, and ant pupae. Wormsnakes likely overwinter inside active ant colonies, but who knows? If you by any chance find one, report it please (here's the place to do so).

This is a snake whose distribution may be associated with the last appearance of glaciers some 15 to 20 thousand years ago. As the glacier reached a melting/freezing balance near Middletown, Ct, it unloaded thousands of tons of debris to form a more-or-less east-west ridge. This served as a dam to the melting glacier and produced an impressive, elongated waterbody called Glacial Lake Hitchcock that reached all the way up the Connecticut Valley making Amherst an island. Hundreds of rivulets, streams and rivers poured off the melting ice and deposited sediment in regular and observable (today) gradations. Large boulders and stone did not travel far into the lake, while sands and fine silts went further to settle to the bottom. When the dam “broke” and the lake drained these sediments were exposed where today many gravel quarries exist. Wormsnakes appear to live mainly in the sandy deltas that formed so long ago. I wonder how they found them?

Wormsnake eggs closeup-1

Wormsnake eggs (multiple females?)

  © Tom Tyning 2013