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.
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.
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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: