eastern mudsnake

(Farancia abacura abacura)


This is a large, stocky snake that grows to lengths of 40-54 in. (102-137 cm). The adult is shiny black and smooth above with the black extending in bars across the belly. The basic belly color is pink or red which extends up along the sides as bars or triangles. The juvenile is similar to the adults, but reddish side markings may join across the anterior portion of the back to form complete bands. The tail tip is sharp. This species lays 25-50 eggs during the summer. Females excavate a chamber in moist soil, usually under a log or in a mound above water level and remain with the eggs until hatching. This snake is seldom seen and is quite secretive. Of the specimens available, most were killed on roads that crossed swampy areas. This is a burrowing snake that spends most of its life associated with lotic water. The mudsnake is nocturnal and may move over land during warm, humid or rainy periods. They may also be found occasionally during the day on banks or under vegetation cover. These snakes overwinter buried in soil or in decaying pine stumps. When captured, they rarely bite. For defensive behavior, this species tries to hide its head under its coil and will stab at its attacker with the blunt tipped tail.


The species occurs in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions of southeastern Virginia, east of and including Amelia County and south of the James River. It inhabits brackish marshes, dark cypress and gum swamps, bogs and other wet areas, usually where there are thick stands of broad-leaved water plants.


The favorite prey are amphiumas and sirens, large eel-like salamanders. The mudsnake will also eat tadpoles, frogs, small salamanders and fish, and earthworms. Enlarged teeth at the rear of the upper jaw presumably aid in holding slippery prey.