Thamnophis saurita — Eastern Ribbonsnake
This species was formerly spelled Thamnophis sauritus, but that was a terrible, terrible mistake.
Subspecies I've seen:
T. s. sackenii
Thamnophis saurita sackenii — Peninsula Ribbonsnake
I was walking along a dike with Terry Farrell, Melissa Pilgrim, and a few Stetson University students looking for more fun herps to go along with the pygmy rattlesnakes we had seen earlier. Melissa spotted this speedster heading off through the water, and after a few minutes of splashing and chasing, she and Terry managed to corral it.
I noticed this ribbonsnake posed perfectly still just off the trail we were walking down. The small white bar just in front of the eye is a characteristic of ribbonsnakes that distinguishes them from their close relatives the gartersnakes.
Corkscrew Swamp is just crawling with snakes (woo hoo!). Of the three ribbonsnakes we saw, this one was posed most nicely. The other two were crawling around in the swamp, too far from the boardwalk to get a decent picture.
Ochlockonee River State Park is very close to the range boundaries between three subspecies of T. saurita : T. s. sackenii, T. s. saurita, and T. s. nitae. This briefly-glimpsed individual is definitely not T. s. nitae, the Blue-striped Ribbonsnake, for obvious reasons. It could be either of the other two, or could be an intergrade with characteristics of both. The most concrete distinction between the two that I've been able to find is the number of scales on the upper lip (seven in T. s. saurita, eight in T. s. sackenii). Too bad I only got this one lousy photo in which the supralabial scales are not countable.
Usually if I see a ribbonsnake out in the open, it is either already moving or quickly starts moving when it becomes aware of my presence. But both of these from the same evening decided to hold nice photo-worthy poses for me. That first one is even doing its best "Tropical Herping" pose.
- Ashton, R. E. Jr., Ashton, P. S. 1988. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida, Part One: The Snakes, Second Edition
- Behler, J. L., King, F. W. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians
- Carmichael, P., Williams, W. 1991. Florida's Fabulous Reptiles & Amphibians
- Conant, R., Collins, J. T. 1998. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition, expanded
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, Eighth Edition
- Smith, H. M., Brodie, E. D. Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Tennant, A. 1997. A Field Guide to Snakes of Florida