northern pinesnake

(Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus)


This is a large, robust snake with a somewhat elongated snout and a head that seems small for the large body. It averages lengths of 48-66 in. (122-168 cm). It has black to dark brown blotches on a white, cream, yellow, or light gray background color. The belly is white with dark spots on the sides. Juveniles are patterned as adults but have black on a white body. Females lay 3-27 eggs in a burrow several inches beneath the surface of the ground in late spring to early summer. The young hatch in August and September. This is a very secretive snake and is nocturnal. When cornered, this snake will coil up, hiss loudly, vibrate the tail, and strike rapidly.


This species is at the northernmost limit of its range in Virginia. It appears to be rare. It has been found in the Blue Ridge and Valley and Ridge physiographic regions of western Virginia, north of the New River. It inhabits dry ridges and hillsides, usually in scrub pine, laurel and rhododendron thickets where soils are sandy or of such texture to allow burrowing, and vegetation is sparse.


This species eats mainly small mammals, birds and birds eggs. Juveniles may eat lizards.