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Meet your backyard brown snake

Hey everyone – This is Ash, from the Herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) Team here. I am happy say that spring is just around the corner! As the weather is warming up, you may even be lucky enough to see some of our local reptiles emerging from overwintering.

One of my recent interactions with a guest was while walking through Scaly Slimy Spectacular. A Zoo Member stopped to tell me that this was her family’s favorite part of the Zoo and that they love seeing the reptile and amphibian inhabitants. She went on to explain how their family lives near the Zoo area and that they see brown snakes in their backyard.

If you haven’t heard of the Dekay’s brown snake (Storeria dekayi), it is the snake you’re most likely to see here in the Grant Park area, including even right on Zoo grounds! They have adapted pretty well to urban areas, and you are more than likely have some in your own backyard! Some people have even nicknamed it the “city snake” because they are so frequently found in developed areas.

Dekay’s brown snakes are great to have around, especially if you have a garden! They eat mostly slugs, snails, and earthworms. They are very small snakes; even as adults, they only grow to 6 to 13 inches in length and are as thin as a pencil. Their background color can vary quite a bit, from yellowish tan to reddish brown, to pinkish, gray, or brown. They usually have two rows of dark spots, sometimes linked, along the sides: a light stripe down the center of the back, and a dark streak down the side of the head. They also do not have a strongly defined neck (which is different from the venomous copperhead, for which the harmless Dekay’s brown snake is often mistaken).

So the next time you are out and about in your garden or just taking a walk, be on the lookout for the amazing Dekay’s brown snake! Aren’t we so lucky to be able to find such abundant amount wildlife here in the Southeast?

Ashley T.
Keeper II, Herpetology

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