Secret World Under Our Noses

The eastern worm snake (Carphophis a. amoenus) is a burrowing reptile that has been found sporadically in Connecticut, with southern Massachusetts being the northernmost limit to its range. Averaging ten to twelve inches in length, this diminutive snake with tiny eyes, a tan back and a pale pink belly initially resembles an earthworm when seen. But when held, its firm, smooth body confirms that this is, indeed, a snake. Its burrowing instinct compels the worm snake to push its head, as well as its pointed tail, between one’s fingers.

wormWorm snakes are secretive and rarely discovered. They require well-drained, sandy soils in which to burrow. When a worm snake is found, it is usually near second growth deciduous woodlands under rocks and forest debris that is slightly imbedded in the soil. But during dry seasons they may stay several feet below ground, living in a world we know little about. Since worm snakes eat mainly earthworms, it is hypothesized that they follow their food source up to the surface during the damper seasons when earthworms are busy breaking down leaf litter.

The recent discovery of two worm snakes in Madison during Menunkatuck’s Biodiversity Day was exciting not only because these are fascinating creatures, but also because worm snakes had not previously been documented in Madison. This causes one to wonder how many dozens of other species can live right under our noses without us ever being aware of their existence.

Submitted by Cindi Kobak

Photo from www.umass.edu/nrec/snake_pit/pages/worm.html