Mud Snake

Farancia abacura

Last updated: March 19, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Nathan A Shepard/Shutterstock.com

Mud Snake Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Colubridae
Genus
Farancia
Scientific Name
Farancia abacura

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Mud Snake Conservation Status

Mud Snake Locations

Mud Snake Locations

Mud Snake Facts

Diet
Carnivore
Average Litter Size
6 to 104
Common Name
Mud snake

Mud Snake Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Multi-colored
Lifespan
19 years
Length
1.18 to 4 feet
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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“Rainbow Colored Snake of the South”

If you look in a drainage ditch or a slow stream in the South and you see a little snake lying in a perfect circle at the bottom, it may be a mud snake. If you pick it up and it has a black and red belly and tries to poke you with its tail, it’s almost certainly a mud snake. Don’t worry, it’s not venomous and it won’t even try to bite you. Take a look at it, put it back in its stream and watch it swim away.

Mud Snake Amazing Facts

Here are four amazing facts about mud snakes.

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1. Mud snakes are born with tails that come to a sharp point, which is rare for a snake. They are sharp enough to stab the mouth of a predator that’s trying to eat them.

2. Eastern mud snakes are endemic to the southeastern United States.

3. The snake is semi-aquatic, and its favorite meal is the giant salamander.



4. They’re sometimes called hoop snakes because people believe the mud snake bites the end of its tail, forms a hoop and rolls downhill. This is a myth.

Where To Find Mud Snakes

Mud snakes are found in the swamps of southern states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and the Carolinas. They prefer ponds or lakes with muddy bottoms, which gives them their common name. They’re also found at river edges, in sluggish streams, bays, irrigation ditches and salt marshes. As a semi-aquatic snake, the mud snake spends most of its time in the water and only leaves to hibernate or breed. The snake will also look for a new body of water when the one it lives in dries up. It can thrive in both fresh and brackish water.

Mud Snake Scientific Name

The scientific name of the mud snake is Farancia abacura. No one seems to know what Farancia means, but the genus features moderate sized and innocuous snakes that seem to come in a rainbow of colors. On the other hand, the epithet abacura is from the Latin word “abacus.” The abacus is a device that allows you to count by moving colored beads. This calls to mind the red-bellied snake’s beautifully colored scales. It has two subspecies:

1. Farancia abacura abacura
2. Farancia abacura reinwardtii

The Different Types of Mud Snake

There are two subspecies of mud snakes. The first, F. a. abacura, is the eastern mud snake and the nominate species. The second. F. a. reinwardtii is the western mud snake. The only real difference between the eastern and western mud snake is that the western mud snake is found more along the Gulf of Mexico and can be found as far north as Illinois. Western mud snakes also seem to prefer habitats that are a bit more stagnant and muddy than the habitats of the nominate species.

Mud Snake Population & Conservation Status

The mud snake is not a rare snake, though it’s a rare thing to see one. It is fairly common in its range and its population is stable.

According to the IUCN Redlist, mud snake is of least concern. The one problem they may have is habitat fragmentation, for it may require the snake to cross a road to get from one place to the other. This puts them at risk of being run over.

How To Identify Mud Snakes: Appearance and Description

Mud snakes are not very large snakes, ranging from a little over a foot to about 4 feet in length. Their dorsal scales are smooth and glossy black, and they have red and black bellies. The red comes up the snakes sides to form vibrant reddish bars. Females tend to be more robust than males, but males have longer tails. The tails end in a spine that’s especially sharp when the snake is a baby. They have flat heads, small tongues and tiny eyes, adaptations that allow them to more easily move through the muddy or sandy bottoms of bodies of water.

Mud Snake Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

Mud snakes are nonvenomous and harmless to people.

Mud Snake Behavior and Humans

Mud snakes can be both nocturnal and diurnal, and snakes that live in the southern part of the range often hunt during the day. They don’t like to be out in storms and will hide in burrows or under water plants to avoid them. They spend much of their time in the water or in mud, but they leave in order to lay eggs. Snakes in the colder regions must also find a hole in the ground near their body of water in which to hibernate, and they don’t emerge until March.

Mud snakes are generally solitary until the mating season. Males and females release pheromones from their skin, and if they are handled, they can release a bad-smelling liquid from the cloaca.

The price of being small and nonvenomous is to have to contend with a variety of predators, including mammals such as raccoons, larger snakes such as cottonmouths, alligators and wading birds. The mud snake tries to protect itself by curling up and displaying the bright colors of its belly. This might remind a would-be predator of the venomous, rainbow colored coral snake and cause them to back off.

The harmless, red-bellied mud snake is sometimes kept as a pet. The price is about $90 per snake along with the price of an enclosure, food and other necessities. Other than this, it doesn’t have much impact on humans. It’s nonvenomous, but as it’s semi-aquatic it doesn’t eat vermin such as rats or mice.

Mud snakes reproduce from March to April in Florida and from July to September everywhere else. Females only lay one clutch of eggs a year, but they can lay between six and as many s 104 eggs. The average is about 27. Before mating, the male uses pheromones to attract her. Competing males engage in combat to see who can pin the other’s head down. The winner gets to mate.

After the female lays her eggs she coils her body over them and remains until they hatch. She only leaves to hunt or molt. Biologists don’t believe this is protective behavior because when the female is approached she won’t make a threat display or try to bite. She will simply slink away.

Baby snakes hatch after about 56 days and are independent immediately. They are ready to breed when they are about two and a half years old and can live for as long as 19 years.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Mud Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are mud snakes venomous?

Mud snakes are nonvenomous.

How do mud snakes hunt?

Mud snakes seem to chase their prey and will use the hardened top of their tail to probe in the mud for it. Once it grabs hold of prey its large back teeth help hold it steady while the snake swallows it. This can take a while, as a grown amphiuma, or conger eel can be almost as long as the snake itself.

Are mud snakes aggressive?

Mud snakes aren’t aggressive, but they may poke you with the sharp tip of their tail or evacuate their bowels if they don’t want to be handled. The tails of baby snakes are especially pointy.

Where do mud snakes live?

Mud snakes live in swampy or marshy areas in the southeastern United States.

What do mud snakes eat?

Since the mud snake spends much of its life in water, it dines on aquatic and semi-aquatic animals such as amphibians, crayfish, and fish.

What is a mud snake?

A mud snake is a beautiful, rather small, red-bellied snake that’s found in the southern United States.

Is the mud snake poisonous?

Mud snakes are not poisonous. Some people believe that they can sting with their tails because their tails are sharp, and they use them as probes. But mud snakes do not have stingers.

Are mud snakes docile?

Mud snakes appear to be quite docile, and some people keep them as pets.

Do mud snakes have teeth?

Mud snakes do indeed have teeth. In fact, the teeth at the back of their mouth are bigger than those at the front. This allows them to bite and hold on to slippery prey such as salamanders, amphiumas, sirens, and fish.

Are mud snakes in Florida?

There are mud snakes in Florida and many other southeastern states.

Sources
  1. , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mud_snake
  2. , Available here: https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/snakes/eastern-mudsnake/eastern_mudsnake.php
  3. , Available here: https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=174164#null
  4. , Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=Farancia%20abacura&searchType=species
  5. , Available here: https://www.reptilesncritters.com/red-bellied-mud-snakes.php
  6. , Available here: https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/faraba.htm
  7. , Available here: https://lucec.loyno.edu/natural-history-writings/mud-snake-farancia-abacura#page-top

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