A small, two-toned snake that is usually purplish brown above and salmon pink on the belly and lower sides. The head is flattened to aid in burrowing, and the tail terminates in an interesting (and harmless) spike that helps it maneuver through soil.
Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
Common Name Synonyms
Western Worm Snake
Length: 7½ to 11 inches.
Where To Find
Statewide, except for extreme southeastern corner and a few counties in the north-central part of the state.
Western wormsnakes live on rocky, wooded or open hillsides, or along the edge of forest where flat rocks or logs provide suitable shelters. This species is never seen in the open; it hides under rocks, logs, or boards or burrows into damp soil or leaf litter.
Foods include earthworms and some soft-bodied insects, insect larvae, and eggs.
This species is usually active between March and October, but it may estivate deep in the soil during the hot, dry period of late July and August. Breeding occurs in the spring and possibly also in fall. Eggs are laid under rocks or underground during June and early July. About 1–6 eggs are laid. These likely hatch in middle to late August.
This common, harmless snake has never been known to bite. When handled, a wormsnake may attempt to escape by trying to work its head through one’s fingers and will also push its sharp but harmless tail against the skin. Support nature education. Speak out on behalf of snakes.
As predators, wormsnakes help to keep worm and insect populations in check. Being small and relatively defenseless, wormsnakes are also preyed upon by larger predators, which helps explain their secretive habits.
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.