Flat-Headed Snake

Photo of a flat-headed snake held in someone’s hands
Scientific Name
Tantilla gracilis
Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

The flat-headed snake is Missouri's smallest snake. It is smooth-scaled, and the general color is tan, gray brown, or slightly reddish brown. The head is sometimes darker than the rest of the body or is black. The belly is salmon pink, a characteristic that distinguishes it from the similar-looking earthsnakes, which have grayish or cream-colored bellies.

Length: 7–8 inches.
Where To Find
Flat-Headed Snake Distribution Map
Southern half of the state, except for the southeastern corner.
Normally active from April through October, this is a burrowing species. It spends most of its time in slightly moist soil under rocks or in underground burrows. South-facing, rocky, wooded hillsides, especially where sandy soil occurs with limestone rock, are its preferred habitats. This species is not known to bite when captured. In hot weather and during winter, these snakes burrow underground.
The flat-headed snake eats centipedes and a variety of insects and their larvae.
Life Cycle
Courtship and mating occur in late April and May. In June, females lay 1–4 eggs in moist soil under rocks. Hatching takes place in August and September. The newly hatched young are about 3 inches long.
At a glance, you may think this small snake is an earthworm. A delicate, smooth, eight-inch creature with few defenses, it disrupts our notion of snakes being fearsome, powerful, and dangerous. The species name, "gracilis," means slender and graceful. The three-inch hatchlings are frankly adorable.
To insects and other arthropods, this snake is a predator, limiting their populations, but a variety of small mammals, birds, lizards, and other snakes relish this small snake, its eggs, and its vulnerable hatchlings.
Media Gallery
Similar Species
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.