I flipped over log after log on my way to class, searching for a particular species. I’m sure all the other students thought I was a bit strange, walking parallel to the sidewalk in the woods, rolling over decaying logs. Earthworms wiggled and spiders scurried away, and I put another log back. Methodically, I flipped a log and my heart beat took off because this earthworm had scales.
The eastern worm snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus) spends almost the entirety of its life underground, feeding primarily on earthworms but will also eat soft-bodied grubs and slugs. It is a small snake reaching an average length of 8 to 12 inches. It will venture above ground at night in the warmer months, but you’d have better luck finding them by flipping logs and rocks.
C. amoenus is present in every state in the south east except for Florida. They are brown to gray with white to pink bellies. There are two subspecies: the eastern worm snake (C. a. amoenus) and the midland worm snake (C. a. helenae) which are distinguished by number of head scales and range. Another species of worm snake is described alongside C. a. amoenus and C. a. helenae. The western worm snake (Carphophis vermis) has the same diet and behaviors but is typically of darker coloration than its counterparts.
When handled the worm snake tries to burry its small hand between your fingers in an attempt to escape underground. It also uses its spiked tail to dig into your hand. The hard, sharp end of the worm snake is used to position worms for feeding, but is also used as a weapon. The tail does not break skin and very rarely will this species bite humans.
Conservation concerns for this species include destruction of forest habitat, flooding, and poisoning via insecticides. Because worm snakes live underground, flooding can kill off populations. This would make damming in forested areas detrimental to local worm snakes.
Thank you for reading! I used “Snakes of the Southeast” by Whit Gibbons and Mike Dorcas and “A Guide to the Snakes of Virginia” published by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my other writings! Be sure to follow my twitter for updates!