Snakes and Lizards in Your Pocket: A Guide to Reptiles of the Upper Midwest

Overview

From the rare and docile massasauga, which relies on camouflage to remain unnoticed, to the more familiar bullsnake, which defends itself by hissing loudly and vibrating its tail from an S-shaped striking position, to the eastern racer, often seen crawling at more than three miles an hour during daytime, snakes are beautiful animals with habits both fascinating and beneficial to humans. Their relatives the lizards, most of which are more easily seen and identified, exhibit similarly fascinating behavior. This ...

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Snakes and Lizards in Your Pocket: A Guide to Reptiles of the Upper Midwest

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Overview

From the rare and docile massasauga, which relies on camouflage to remain unnoticed, to the more familiar bullsnake, which defends itself by hissing loudly and vibrating its tail from an S-shaped striking position, to the eastern racer, often seen crawling at more than three miles an hour during daytime, snakes are beautiful animals with habits both fascinating and beneficial to humans. Their relatives the lizards, most of which are more easily seen and identified, exhibit similarly fascinating behavior. This colorful addition to our series of laminated guides informs both amateur and professional herpetologists about twenty-seven species of snakes and six species of lizards in the Upper Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

 Terry VanDeWalle provides a complete description of each species, both adult and young, as well as distinguishing characteristics for thirty-two subspecies of snakes and two subspecies of lizards: length, color, head and neck patterns, scales, and so on. Also included is information about habitat preferences: forests, wet meadows, and sand prairies, for example. Most helpful for identifying snakes and lizards in the field are his comparisons of similar species and his comprehensive key.

 Superb photographs by Suzanne Collins of adult and, when needed for identification, young snakes and lizards make this guide the perfect companion for hikers in all kinds of environments whenever a snake ripples across your path or a lizard darts into the underbrush.

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587298721
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Series: Bur Oak Guide Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 1
  • Sales rank: 542,129
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry VanDeWalle as been researching reptiles and amphibians in the Midwest for almost twenty years. He is a principal scientist for Natural Resources Consulting, Inc., in Independence, Iowa. Wildlife photographer Suzanne Collins is an executive officer of the Center for North American Herpetology.

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Read an Excerpt

Snakes and Lizards in Your Pocket


By Terry VanDeWalle

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PRESS

Copyright © 2010 University of Iowa Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58729-872-1


Chapter One

SNAKES

Common garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis

RANGE: Eastern (T. s. sirtalis): IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, OH, WI; Red-sided (T. s. parietalis): IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD SIZE: 16-26 inches, maximum 50 inches description: Medium-size dark brown or black snake with yellow or gray midback stripe and yellow stripe on sides confined to scale rows 2 and 3. Red-sided subspecies has red or orange bars separated by black bars on sides. Belly greenish or yellowish with 2 rows of black spots partially hidden by belly scales. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Meadows, marshes, woodlands, streams, city lots, parks SIMILAR SPECIES: Plains garter snake has stripe on sides on scale rows 3 and 4. Brown snake lacks stripe along sides, anal plate is divided.

Eastern ribbon snake Thamnophis sauritus

RANGE: Eastern (T. s. sauritus): IL, IN, OH; Northern (T. s. septentrionalis): IL, IN, MI, OH, WI SIZE: 18-26 inches, maximum 40 inches DESCRIPTION: Medium-size, slender black snake with yellow or orange midback stripe and yellow stripes on sides on scale rows 3 and 4. May have pair of faint spots on top of head that never touch each other. Tail long, approximately one-third of total length. Belly greenish white, unmarked. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Vegetation adjacent to swamps, ponds, marshes, creeks, rivers SIMILAR SPECIES: Western ribbon snake has pair of spots on top of head that touch each other. Plains garter snake has stripe on sides on scale rows 3 and 4, tail less than one-quarter of total length.

Plains garter snake Thamnophis radix

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI SIZE: 15-28 inches, maximum 43 inches DESCRIPTION: Medium-size dark brown or black snake with orange-yellow midback stripe, yellow-gray stripe on sides on scale rows 3 and 4, 2 rows of black spots or blotches on sides. Black bars on lips, pair of brightly colored spots on top of head that may or may not touch. Belly gray-green with dark spots along edges. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Open grassy areas adjacent to water SIMILAR SPECIES: Common garter snake has stripe on sides on scale rows 2 and 3. Ribbon snakes have stripe on sides on scale rows 3 and 4 but are more slender with long tail one-quarter or more of total length.

Western ribbon snake Thamnophis proximus

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MO, NE, WI SIZE: 20-30 inches, maximum 48.5 inches DESCRIPTION: Medium-size, slender black snake with orange midback stripe, yellow or greenish stripes on sides on scale rows 3 and 4, pair of brightly colored spots on top of head that touch each other. Tail more than one-quarter of total length but usually less than one-third. Belly greenish white, unmarked. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Vegetation adjacent to swamps, ponds, marshes, creeks, rivers SIMILAR SPECIES: Eastern ribbon snake may have pair of spots on top of head that do not touch each other. Plains garter snake has stripe on sides on scale rows 3 and 4, tail less than one-quarter of total length.

Smooth green snake Liochlorophis vernalis

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI SIZE: 12-20 inches, maximum 26 inches DESCRIPTION: Slender, unpatterned bright lime green snake. Yellow upper lip, cream to pale yellow belly. Young dark olive or bluish gray. Scales smooth, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Wet prairies, bogs, meadows, marsh borders, open woodlands SIMILAR SPECIES: Rough green snake is more slender and longer and has keeled scales.

Rough green snake Opheodrys aestivus

RANGE: IL, IN, KS, MO, OH size: 22-32 inches, maximum 45.6 inches DESCRIPTION: Slender, unpatterned bright green snake. Upper lip and lower portion of head yellow. Belly white, yellow, or pale greenish. Young grayish green. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Moist habitats along waterways in woodlands, marsh or lake borders, woodland edges SIMILAR SPECIES: Smooth green snake is not as long, scales smooth.

Brown snake Storeria dekayi

RANGE: Midland (S. d. wrightorum): IL, IN, IA, MI, MO, OH, WI; Northern (S. d. dekayi): IN, MI, OH; Texas (S. d. texana): IA, KS, MN, MO, SD, WI SIZE: 9-13 inches, maximum 20.75 inches DESCRIPTION: Grayish brown to dark brown snake with 2 parallel rows of black spots on back. Belly cream to pink with 1 or more small black dots at side of each scale. Subspecies can be distinguished by head and back patterns: northern has small blotch on back of head, dark downward stripe on side of head, 2 rows of unconnected spots on back; Texas has large blotch on back of head, no downward stripe on side of head, large spot under eye, 2 rows of unconnected spots on back; midland has small blotch on back of head, dark downward stripe on side of head, 2 rows of connected spots on back. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Forests, prairies, marshes, old fields, farmland, city lots SIMILAR SPECIES: Redbelly snake has 15 scale rows and red, orange, or pale yellow belly. Garter snakes have single anal plates, light stripe on sides. Ringneck snake has smooth scales.

Ringneck snake Diadophis punctatus

RANGE: Mississippi (D. p. stictogenys): IL, MO; Northern (D. p. edwardsii): IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI; Prairie (D. p. arnyi): IL, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, SD, WI SIZE: 10-15 inches, maximum 27 inches DESCRIPTION: Bluish black, bluish gray, or black with yellow, orange, or cream ring around neck. Young may be darker above than adult. Belly yellow or orange with scattered dark spots. Subspecies differ in belly spots: northern is unmarked or has few spots, prairie has numerous irregularly placed spots, Mississippi has paired spots down middle of belly. Scales smooth, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Rocky hillsides, woodlands, woodland edges SIMILAR SPECIES: Brown snake and redbelly snake have dark blotches or spots on neck but scales are keeled.

Redbelly snake Storeria occipitomaculata

RANGE: Black Hills (S. o. pahasapae): IA, MN, NE, ND, SD; Northern (S. o. occipitomaculata): IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, OH, SD, WI SIZE: 8-10 inches, maximum 16 inches DESCRIPTION: Little dark brown, olive-black, or grayish snake with 3 small, separate light spots on neck and 4 narrow dark stripes or 1 wide light stripe on midback and bright red, orange, or pale yellow belly. Subspecies can be distinguished by head and neck patterns: northern has 3 well-defined neck spots, light spot on upper lip; Black Hills has very small or no neck spots, no light spot on upper lip. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Forests, moist woods, wet meadows, marshes, prairies SIMILAR SPECIES: Brown snake has 2 rows of parallel black spots on back, cream to pink belly with small black dots at side of each belly scale.

Lined snake Tropidoclonion lineatum

RANGE: IL, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, SD SIZE: 8.75-15 inches, maximum 22 inches DESCRIPTION: Small, slender gray-brown to olive-brown snake with cream, yellow, or orange midback stripe, similarly colored stripes on sides on scale rows 2 and 3. Each stripe bordered by row of dark spots. Belly pale green to yellowish green with double row of black half moons down midbelly. Small head barely wider than body, heavily marked with black spots behind eyes. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Originally prairies and grasslands, now found in city lots SIMILAR SPECIES: Garter snakes and ribbon snakes usually lack dark spots on belly but, if present, spots are never shaped like half moons.

Western hognose snake Heterodon nasicus

RANGE: Dusty (H. n. gloydi): IL, KS, MO; Plains (H. n. nasicus): IL, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD SIZE: 15-25 inches, maximum 39.5 inches DESCRIPTION: Stout-bodied snake with gray or tan back covered with dark blotches. Sharply upturned snout, dark stripe between eyes extending diagonally to corner of mouth. Belly jet black with yellow or white blotches, underside of tail black. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Prairies or savannas with well-drained sandy or gravelly soil SIMILAR SPECIES: Eastern hognose snake has underside of tail that is always lighter than belly, slightly upturned snout.

Eastern hognose snake Heterodon platirhinos

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, SD, WI SIZE: 20-33 inches, maximum 45.5 inches DESCRIPTION: Thick-bodied snake that varies in color from solid black to brown, gray, greenish, yellow, or pink usually with spots along back and sides. Slightly upturned snout, dark stripe between eyes extending diagonally to corner of mouth. Belly light or dark, underside of tail always lighter than belly. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Loose sandy soils in open woodlands, woodland edges, grassy fields, farmland SIMILAR SPECIES: Western hognose snake has black underside of tail, sharply upturned snout.

Northern water snake Nerodia sipedon

RANGE: Midland (N. s. pleuralis): IL, IN, MO, OH; Northern (N. s. sipedon): IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI SIZE: 24-42 inches, maximum 55.1 inches DESCRIPTION: Medium-size tan to gray water snake with wide brown or reddish brown blotches along back on first third of body, dark brown rectangles alternating along back and sides on remaining two-thirds. Dark bars on upper lip, no dark stripe from eye to corner of mouth. Chin, throat, and belly cream to yellow with reddish half moons on belly. Northern subspecies has 30 or more body bands whose width is greater than distance between bands, half moons scattered on belly. Midland subspecies has fewer than 30 body bands whose width is less than distance between bands, double row of half moons on belly. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Lakes, oxbows, ponds, marshes, ditches, creeks, streams, rivers, canals SIMILAR SPECIES: Cottonmouth adults lack pattern on back or have indistinct hourglass-shaped crossbands, white markings on face, elliptical pupils. Blotched water snake has plain yellow or light orange belly, unpatterned underside of tail.

Diamondback water snake Nerodia rhombifer

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MO SIZE: 30-48 inches, maximum 63 inches DESCRIPTION: Fairly large water snake named for diamondlike pattern along back, consisting of lighter background color outlined by darker chainlike pattern on background color of light brown or dirty yellow. Head darker brown with dark brown bars on yellow upper lip. Belly cream to yellow with dark gray to black or brown half moons. Young strongly patterned with belly brightly tinged with orange. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Lakes, oxbows, ponds, marshes, ditches, streams SIMILAR SPECIES: Cotton-mouth adults lack diamondlike pattern, have white markings on face, elliptical pupils.

Plainbelly water snake Nerodia erythrogaster

RANGE: Blotched (N. e. transversa): KS, MO; Copperbelly (N. e. neglecta): IL, IN, IA, MI, OH; Yellowbelly (N. e. flavigaster): IL, IA, MO SIZE: 30-48 inches, maximum 62 inches DESCRIPTION: Large water snake with back of solid bluish gray or reddish gray (yellowbelly and copperbelly subspecies) or shades of brown or gray with variably sized dark blotches (blotched subspecies). Subspecies can be distinguished by belly color: yellowbelly is solid yellow, copperbelly is solid coppery red, blotched is solid yellow or light orange. Young of all subspecies strongly patterned like blotched water snake. Scales keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Bayous, lakes, oxbows, wet bottomland woods, marshes, ditches, streams, rivers, sloughs SIMILAR SPECIES: Northern water snake has crossbands on neck and body, half moons on belly, patterned underside of tail.

Kingsnake Lampropeltis species

RANGE: Black (L. nigra): IL, IN, OH; Speckled (L. holbrooki): IL, IA, KS, MO, NE SIZE: 36-48 inches, maximum 72 inches DESCRIPTION: Glossy snake with white or yellow spot centered in each of many black or dark brown scales on back on speckled kingsnake; back of black kingsnake plain black or with greatly reduced pattern. Dark bars on lips. Young have light crossbands on back with little or no spotting between them, spots along sides of body. Belly patterned with mix of cream or yellow and black. Scales smooth, anal plate single. HABITAT: Wooded hillsides, wooded stream valleys SIMILAR SPECIES: Eastern racer has smooth scales, divided anal plate. Rat snakes have weakly keeled scales, divided anal plates.

Milk snake Lampropeltis triangulum

RANGE: Eastern (L. t. triangulum): IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, OH, WI; Red (L. t. syspila): IL, IN, IA, KS, MO, NE, SD SIZE: 24-36 inches, maximum 52 inches DESCRIPTION: Small to medium-size snake varying from gray to tan with series of white or yellow, red, and black bands. White or yellow bands never contact red bands. Reddish blotches on back and sides boldly bordered by black in eastern subspecies, reduced or absent in red subspecies. Y- or V-shaped mark near back of head (eastern) or light collar on neck (red). Belly irregular checkerboard with black on white. Scales smooth, anal plate single. HABITAT: Fields, woodlands, rocky hillsides, river bottoms, wetlands, outbuildings SIMILAR SPECIES: Copperhead has coppery, virtually unmarked head, single row of crossbands on back, no checkerboard pattern on belly. Water snakes have keeled scales, divided anal plates. Prairie kingsnake has brown to reddish brown blotches on back, never bright red, brown blotches on belly.

Prairie kingsnake Lampropeltis calligaster

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MO, NE size: 30-42 inches, maximum 56 inches DESCRIPTION: Shiny gray to brown with approximately 60 brown to reddish brown, black-bordered blotches along back; 2 alternating rows of dark spots along sides of body may fuse together. Head with 3 dark marks-stripe extending diagonally from eye to corner of mouth, second stripe extending downward from eye onto lip, and bar that crosses between and in front of eyes. Belly cream to yellow with squarish brown blotches. Young snakes strongly spotted. Scales smooth, anal plate single. HABITAT: Grasslands, open woodlands, prairies, savannas SIMILAR SPECIES: Rat snakes have weakly keeled scales, divided anal plates. Western fox snake has weakly keeled scales, divided anal plate, checkerboard pattern on belly. Milk snake has reddish blotches on back and sides boldly bordered by black, black marks on belly.

Bullsnake Pituophis catenifer sayi

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI SIZE: 37-72 inches, maximum 110 inches DESCRIPTION: Large, slender cream, yellow, or tan snake with black, brown, or reddish brown unconnected blotches along back, black tail bands. Dark stripe extending from behind eye to corner of mouth, narrow snout with enlarged scale at tip. Belly yellow with bold black spots. Scales keeled, anal plate single. HABITAT: Prairies, grasslands, old fields SIMILAR SPECIES: Prairie kingsnake has smooth scales, single anal plate. Western fox snake has rounded snout, weakly keeled scales, divided anal plate, checkerboard pattern on belly.

Western fox snake Mintonius vulpinus

RANGE: IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NE, SD, WI SIZE: 36-54 inches, maximum 70.5 inches DESCRIPTION: Tan with large dark brown or black blotches along back, smaller dark blotches on sides. Dark stripe extending diagonally from eye to corner of mouth, rounded snout. Belly yellow with distinct black checkerboard pattern. Scales weakly keeled, anal plate divided. HABITAT: Prairies, farmland, open woodlands, woodland edges SIMILAR SPECIES: Milk snake and prairie kingsnakes have smooth scales, single anal plates. Bullsnake has narrow snout with enlarged scale at tip, strongly keeled scales, single anal plate, no checkerboard pattern on belly.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Snakes and Lizards in Your Pocket by Terry VanDeWalle Copyright © 2010 by University of Iowa Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    Sex?Must be a MUST-read then!!!I am buying it now!!Thanks!!

    :)!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    O ya

    Im a bid snake fan it sounds like sex lol

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    Posted December 15, 2012

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Paige

    SuzanneCollins WroteA Book On Reptiles ohhSorry liserds

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