Reptile-Amphibian #10 — Red-bellied Snake

storeria occipitomaculata

Sunday, April 14, 2002 — 7:50 pm

Moraine Hills State Park, Illinois

I parked at McHenry Dam and walked seven miles around the McHenry Dam and Leatherleaf Bog Trails. On the Bog Trail, about 500 yards west of Junction B, I spotted a worm laying motionless on the trail. Except it couldn’t be a worm because it was dark gray. I stopped for another look.

It was a tiny snake, about four-inches long. It’s head was a shiny brown-black. The body was a dark gray. There was a pale triangle on the back of its neck. I flipped it over and saw that its belly was bright red.

It tried to scurry away, but had difficulty getting traction on the gravel path, so it mostly scurried around in place. When I put a finger directly in front of it, it coiled a bit, then tried to scurry in another direction. It was in imminent danger of being stepped on or run over by a bike, so I did my good deed for the day and guided it toward the grass along the path. This was only a eight-inch voyage, but it took a while. Between its lack of traction, its frequent direction changes and its difficulty climbing up the very slight incline into the grass, I figured I’d have to help. It finally made it, but then started back for the path.

I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand for a moment. It kept wiggling and soon fell off into the grass. It landed upside-down but quickly turned over and stuck its head and most of its body under a clump of grass. It seemed safe, so I left, feeling proud of myself.

Red-bellied Snake - Ozark National Forest, Arkansas - Butterfield Hiking Trail - March, 2008

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