Pantherophis gloydieastern fox snake

Geographic Range

Eastern fox snakes historically occurred along the shores of the Lakes Huron and Erie, from the Georgian and Saginaw Bays to north central Ohio and eastward along the northern shore of Lake Erie to Long Point and perhaps Buffalo (Schmidt 1941). Today the eastern fox snakes can be found from Saginaw Bay along the shore of Lake Huron south to the western edge of Lake Erie (Holman et al. 1989) in Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.

Habitat

Eastern fox snakes are typically found in flat, marshy or partially drained areas. Eastern fox snakes on islands in Lake Erie are found in open, rocky habitats and woodlands. Unlike western fox snakes (E. vulpina), eastern fox snakes are rarely found in upland wooded areas. Eastern fox snakes are ground dwelling animals that are rarely found climbing trees or understory brush. (Holman, et al., 1989)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds

Physical Description

The two morphologically similar species of fox snake-- eastern (Pantherophis gloydi) and western (Pantherophis vulpinus), were, until recently, considered subspecies under the latter name. Fox snakes range from 91 to 137 cm in length when mature (the published record length is 179 cm, some slightly longer animals are known). The dorsal surface varies in color from a yellowish color to light brown, with dark blotches ranging in color from chocolate to black. The head will also vary in color from brown to a distinctly reddish color. Eastern fox snakes have a yellow colored belly that is checkered with black (Conant and Collins 1998). The scales are weakly keeled and they have a divided anal plate. Young snakes are paler in color, spots are rich brown and edged with a black or dark brown band, and they have a dark transverse line anterior to their eyes and a line from their eye to the angle of the jaw (Conant and Collins 1998).

Eastern fox snakes can be differentiated from western fox snakes by the number of blotches present on the dorsal surface. Eastern fox snakes have fewer blotches (average 34) than do western fox snakes (average 41). The blotches on the eastern fox snake are 4, 5, or 6 scales in length, while the western fox snake's blotches are 3 to 4 scales in length (Schmidt 1941, Harding 1997). Their ranges do not presently overlap; western fox snakes occur in prairies, farmlands, and open woodlands of the western Great Lakes and eastern plains states. (Conant and Collins., 1998)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    91 to 179 mm
    3.58 to 7.05 in

Reproduction

Eastern fox snakes lay anywhere from 7 to 29 eggs in June or July, which hatch in late summer. The young are similar to the adults and measure roughly 27 cm in length. (Holman, et al., 1989)

  • Breeding interval
    Eastern fox snakes breed once each year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in June and July.
  • Range number of offspring
    7 to 29

Behavior

Eastern fox snakes are generally considered docile animals. They do have several defense mechanisms which they will use if they feel threatened. They will become aggressive and strike when threatened, but will normally try to avoid any confrontations. ("Point Pelee National Park; A Mimic From Among the Reptile Family.", Parks Canada. 1999.)

Food Habits

Eastern fox snakes feed on small mammals, frogs, birds, and occasionally bird eggs. Eastern fox snakes are constrictors, which means they kill by wrapping their bodies around the chest of their prey and squeezing until the prey eventially dies. (Holman, et al., 1989)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eastern fox snakes are major predators of small rodents, which can be agricultural pests. If fox snake numbers can be kept stable they will help control small rodent numbers resulting in less crop damage in many agricultural fields.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Eastern fox snakes are harmless snakes, there are no negative effects of these snakes on humans.

Conservation Status

Eastern fox snakes are currently listed as a threatened species in the state of Michigan. The loss and pollution of wetland habitats, indiscriminate killing by people who think fox snakes are venomous, illegal collecting, and road kills are all factors in the decline of fox snakes. Any sightings of this snake should be reported to local wildlife authorities. ("Eastern Fox Snake", Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999)

Other Comments

Fox snakes, both western and eastern, are often killed by people who mistakenly believe them to be venomous. Many people get the fox snake confused with the venomous copperhead snake due to the reddish coloring of the head. One of the defense mechanisms of the fox snake is to vibrate its tail as a warning to potential predators. This creates a sound similar to that of a rattlesnake by the rustling of the leaves beneath the snake.

When a fox snake is threatened it will secrete a strong substance which some say smells like the musty secretions of foxes, hence the name "fox snake". In many areas eastern fox snakes are referred to as "spotted adders," a local name also sometimes applied to eastern milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) in the same region. ("Eastern Fox Snake", Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jerry Hill (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999. "Eastern Fox Snake" (On-line). Accessed November 14, 1999 at http://www.hoec.saginaw.k12.mi.us/Snakes/Snake.html.

Parks Canada. 1999.. "Point Pelee National Park; A Mimic From Among the Reptile Family." (On-line). Accessed November 14, 1999 at http://parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/parks/ontario/pointpelee/english/nature.

Conant, R., J. Collins.. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern/Central North America.. New york: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Holman, J., J. Harding, M. Hensley, G. Dudderar.. 1989. Michigan Snakes: A Field Guide and Pocket Reference. East Lansing: Michigan State University: Coop. Ext. Serv. Publ. E-2000.

Schmidt, K., D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes; of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.