- (Linnaeus, 1766)
Other English Common Names: Rough Green Snake, rough greensnake
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s):
Opheodrys aestivus (Linnaeus, 1766) (TSN 174172)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102569
Element Code: ARADB23010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B90COL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Opheodrys aestivus
Taxonomic Comments: Grobman (1984) recognized four subspecies, based on scutellation variation: aestivus, majalis, carinatus, and conanti (the last two newly described). See Grobman (1992) and Collins (1992) for conflicting opinions on the validity of O. aestivus subspecies. These subspecies "generally have not been recognized by the herpetological community...because the distinctions among them were based on one or two differences in variable [and environmentally labile] scale characters and on outmoded taxonomic practices" (Walley and Plummer 2000).
Oldham and Smith (1991) demonstrated several significant categorical differences between O. aestivus and O. vernalis, indicative of a long history of divergent evolution, and assigned the latter species to a new genus (Liochlorophis), leaving aestivus as the only member of the genus Opheodrys.
Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Dec2005
Global Status Last Changed: 14Dec2000
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico; common in many areas.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S5), Delaware (S2), District of Columbia (S4), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S3), Kansas (S4), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S5), Mississippi (S4), Missouri (S5), New Jersey (S5), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (S3), Oklahoma (S5), Pennsylvania (S1), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S2)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors
Range Extent: 200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The range extends from southern New Jersey to southern Florida, west to eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and central Texas, north to the southern portions of the southern Great Lakes states, south into northeastern Mexico (Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas) (Walley and Plummer 2000).
Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a very large number of occurrences or subpopulations (more than 100) (see map in Walley and Plummer 2000).
Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but probably is greater than 100,000.
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)
Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: No major threats are known. Locally, clearing of wooded wetlands and wooded borders of aquatic habitats is a potential threat, as is pesticide application in such habitats.
Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and populations size probably are relatively stable overall, with local declines associated with habitat loss or climate variation (Plummer 1997).
Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information
Inventory Needs: Ascertain the current extent of occupied habitat throughout the range (as a baseline for indexing population trends).
Protection Needs: Protect several large tracts of optimal habitat well dispersed throughout the range. Discourage application of pesticides in or near wooded wetlands.
(200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles))
The range extends from southern New Jersey to southern Florida, west to eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and central Texas, north to the southern portions of the southern Great Lakes states, south into northeastern Mexico (Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas) (Walley and Plummer 2000).
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.
Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005
U.S. Distribution by County
||County Name (FIPS Code)
New Castle (10003),
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed
||Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
Lower West Branch Susquehanna (02050206)+*,
Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+,
Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+,
Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva (02080111)+
Lower Monongahela (05020005)+*,
Lower New (05050004)+,
Lower Scioto (05060002)+,
Lower Great Miami (05080002)+*,
Ohio Brush-Whiteoak (05090201)+,
Little Miami (05090202)+,
Upper White (05120201)+,
Lower White (05120202)+,
Lower East Fork White (05120208)+,
Silver-Little Kentucky (05140101)+,
Lower Ohio-Little Pigeon (05140201)+,
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A colubrid snake; adults usually are about 56-81 cm long.
Reproduction Comments: Eggs are laid mainly in late June-July in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Clutch size averages 5-6 in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Eggs hatch in 5-12 weeks, July-October (August-early September in Arkansas). In Arkansas, males first breed at 21 months (spring of 3rd calendar year), females at 21 months or 33 months (Plummer 1985; Aldridge et al., 1990, Amphibia-Reptilia 11:165-172).
Ecology Comments: The best information derives from Plummer's studies in Arkansas. Average distance between recapture sites was about 28 m (Plummer 1997). Home range averaged 67 m of shoreline and differed in location between years by about 50 m (Plummer 1997). Population density was about 430/ha within 5 m of shoreline (Plummer 1985); maximum density was 800/ha at another site (Plummer 1997). First year survivorship was 21-22%; few individuals lived longer than six years (Plummer 1997). Snakes were active over a wide range of body temperatures (Plummer 1993).
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Hardwood
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: This snake typically inhabits dense vegetation (vines, shrubs, trees) near water; often at forest edges or in fairly open forests; also overgrown pasture, tallgrass prairie, thickets, barrier islands; open marsh and spoil banks in Louisiana; pine-oak, mesic hardwood hammocks, and occasionally mangrove swamps in Florida (see Walley and Plummer 2000). It is mostly arboreal but less so in spring and fall. In Arkansas, it avoids basking (Plummer 1993). It occupies vegetation above ground at night in warmer months; underground in cold weather.
Eggs are laid under objects in damp areas (Ashton and Ashton 1981), in rotting logs (Goldsmith 1984), or in tree hollows. May nest communally. In Arkansas, gravid females moved 5-75 m (average 36 m) terrestrially away from lake shore and oviposited in small chambers within the hollowed interiors of small living trees, 25-300 cm above ground; individuals may return to specific tree each year (Plummer 1989, 1990).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats mostly insects (especially caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets) and spiders.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Active from about April to November in north (Collins 1982, Minton 1972), April to December in Texas (Tennant 1984). Essenially diurnal but sometimes active just after dark in hottest summer weather (Tennant 1984).
Length: 116 centimeters
Not yet assessed
Not yet assessed
Group Name: Medium And Large Colubrid Snakes
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that snakes rarely if ever cross successfully; major river, lake, pond, or deep marsh (this barrier pertains only to upland species and does not apply to aquatic or wetland snakes); densely urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Available information on movements of colubrid snakes is limited to a small minority of species. These data indicate that nearly all species have home ranges smaller or much smaller than 25 ha (e.g., less than 3 ha, Pituophis catenifer in California, Rodriguez-Robles 2003), with some up to about 75 ha (Heterodon platirhinos, average 50 ha, Plummer and Mills 2000), and the largest up to 225 ha in the biggest colubrids (Drymarchon, summer mean 50-100 ha, USFWS 1998).
Radiotelemetry data for Pantherophis indicate that residents of hibernacula that are 1-2 km apart (with suitable intervening habitat) probably interbreed (Prior et al. 1997, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead 2002). However, "evidence of genetic structure even over short distances (e.g., 2-20 km) implies that gene flow among rat snake populations can be easily disrupted" (Prior et al. 1997). Loughheed et al. (1999) found evidence of substantial genetic exchange among local hibernacula (< 6 km apart), but gene flow over distances of 10s of km appears to be substantially less. Based on extensive radio-tracking data, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead (2002) found that home range size of Pantherophis averaged 18.5 ha and ranged up to 93 ha; based on the most mobile individuals, Pantherophis from hibernacula up to 8 km apart can come together for mating. Pantherophis and probably other colubrids exhibit high fidelity to hibernacula and shift even to nearby sites only rarely (Prior et al. 2001).
Many of the several studies that report small home ranges for colubrids did not employ methods (e.g., radio telemetry) suitable for detecting full annual or multi-annual home range size, dispersal, or other long-distance movements, so these may have yielded underestimates of home ranges or activity areas.
At least some colubrids, including medium-sized species such as garter snakes, not uncommonly move between areas up to a few kilometers apart, and several species make extensive movements of up to several kilometers, so separation distances of 1-2 km for suitable habitat are too small for medium-sized and large colubrids.
A separation distance of 10 km for suitable habitat was selected as most appropriate for snakes assigned to this Specs Group because it seems generally unlikely that two locations separated by less than 10 km of suitable habitat would represent distinct occurrences.
For the purposes of these occurrence specifications, upland habitat is regarded as unsuitable habitat for aquatic and wetland snakes. For upland snakes, shallow or patchy wetlands are treated as unsuitable habitat whereas large deepwater habitats (subjective determination) are barriers.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: Separation distance for suitable habitat was changed from 5 km to 10 km based on comments from Dale Jackson (12 Feb 2013).
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09Dec2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 09Dec2005
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.
Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of
natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).
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