The western mudsnake is a medium-sized, iridescent glossy snake of Missouri's southeastern swamps. It is shiny, iridescent black on top, and the belly is red, pink, and orange with some black spots and banding. The tail of most specimens ends in a sharp point, which is completely harmless and cannot break the skin of humans.
Species of Conservation Concern
Farancia abacura reinwardtii
Colubridae (colubrid snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
Common Name Synonyms
Western Mud Snake; Hoop Snake; Stinging Snake
Length: 40–54 inches.
Where To Find
Restricted to the natural swamps of the Mississippi Lowlands of southeastern Missouri.
This species lives in and near the large natural cypress swamps in the southeastern corner of the state, taking shelter under logs or in animal burrows. It prefers shallow areas with lots of rotten or water-soaked logs. Because of its habitat restrictions, it is vital we preserve our last remaining natural swamps in the Bootheel.
Although it occasionally eats frogs, tadpoles, and fish, this snake is specialized for eating amphiumas and lesser sirens, which are both elongated, eel-like aquatic amphibians. These slippery creatures writhe and squirm when molested and coil into a ball. The mudsnake, however, uses its unusually pointed tail to prod its prey, causing it to uncoil for easier swallowing. Contrary to an old myth, the pointy tail does not have a “stinger.” It cannot even break human skin.
A Species of Conservation Concern. Because this species requires a natural swamp habitat, it is important that Missouri’s last remaining native cypress swamps be preserved.
They presumably breed in the spring, probably April or May. Eggs are laid in animal burrows or in rotten logs. There are 11–50 eggs in a clutch, and females remain with the eggs until they hatch, in August or September.
Missouri is a state blessed with many different types of habitats, each with its own unique combinations of species. Just as one finds prairie chickens on the prairie, catfish in a big river, and persimmons in the Ozarks, there are mudsnakes in our Bootheel swamps. All are natural treasures.
The western mudsnake is part of the unique natural community of cypress swamps in the Mississippi Lowlands. It, the amphiumas it preys on, and the creatures that in turn prey on it all thrive in our natural cypress swamps.
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.