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Northern Brown Snake

Classification: Reptile
Other names: Dekay’s snake (in honor of an 18th century naturalist); brown grass snake, ground snake, house snake, little brown snake, rock snake, spotted brown snake
Size: 9 to 13 inches long
Color: yellowish, reddish or grayish brown. Double row of dark spots along its back.
Diet: Earthworms, slugs, spiders and (rarely) small amphibians and fish
Predators: Toads, frogs, larger snakes, crows, hawks, weasels, domestic cats and dogs
Hazard to humans: None. Non-venomous and gentle.
Interesting fact: When threatened, the northern brownsnake will flatten itself out to appear larger and will emit a musky-smelling fluid.

You Don’t Need to Fear the Northern Brown Snake

Shy and gentle aren’t words usually used to describe snakes, but in the case of the northern brown snake they are appropriate. These snakes—which come in all shades of brown from yellowish to reddish to gray—like to live near the wetlands and marshes of Maryland, in moist woods, in backyards and urban parks.

You can recognize a northern brown snake in Maryland by these distinguishing features:

  • Two parallel rows of black spots running down its back
  • Head mottled with small black spots
  • Two dark marks under the eye (inverted V)
  • Keeled scales (with a ridge down the center)

The snakes are 9 to 13 inches long as adults.

Night Walkers

Northern brown snakes can be hard to spot because they like to hunt at night and because they often hunt underground (in animal burrows).  They eat earthworms, spiders, slugs and sometimes small fish and amphibians. Like most snakes, they use their sense of smell to look for their prey.

The young brown snakes grow inside their mother, who bears 3 to 26 live young. The newborns are about 3 ¼ inches long and have a yellow collar around their neck that disappears as they age.

During Maryland winters, the northern brown snakes go into a hibernation-like state, often sleeping the winter away in large groups.

No Threat

If you do come across a northern brown snake in Maryland, don’t worry. This non-venomous snake is gentle when handled and does not bite.

They do have many natural predators, however, including large frogs and toads, larger snakes, crows, hawks, shrews, weasels and domestic dogs and cats.

 

If the snake if your yard looks different than the one pictured, it could be one of the following:

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