Discover the Largest Flathead Snake Ever Recorded

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: September 12, 2023
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Key Points

  • Flathead snakes are scientifically called Tantilla gracilis.
  • These small snakes feed on centipedes, insects, and insect larvae.
  • Flathead snakes live in moist soil on rocky or wooded hillsides.

People are usually fascinated by giant snakes, aren’t they? There are so many documentaries about some of the largest snakes in the world! But what do we know about the small, harmless snakes that inhabit our planet? They can be even more enchanting than giant snakes! 

Flathead snakes, for example, are adorable small snakes that usually don’t measure more than 7-8 inches long. They are harmless and can be easily kept as pets!

How do they look? How can you tell them apart from earthworms? How large do they grow, and what’s the largest flathead snake ever recorded?

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What is a Flathead Snake?

Smallest Snakes: Flat-headed Snake

Flathead snakes are members of the

Colubridae

family in the

Squamata

order.

©Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

Flathead snakes are scientifically called Tantilla gracilis. They are members of the Colubridae family in the Squamata order. It is usually gray, brown, tan, or reddish brown with a salmon-pink belly. Its head may have a darker shade. The flathead snake has smooth scales. Its head is flattened and a bit wider than its neck.

These small snakes feed on centipedes, insects, and insect larvae. A study on 68 flathead snakes from the pine-hardwood forests of east Texas shows that 80% of these snakes’ diets consisted of coleopteran larvae. They also fed on terrestrial snails and centipedes. The study demonstrated that flathead snakes choose their prey depending on their shape, not size. 

Flathead snake predators are small mammals, lizards, birds, and larger snakes. An article by Shelby C.Braman and Darrell W. Pogue called “Eastern Bluebird Provisions Nestlings with Flat-headed Snake” demonstrates that Eastern Bluebirds feed on flat-headed snakes. The evidence is the occurrence of a dead flathead snake in an eastern bluebird nest. 

Flathead snakes live in moist soil on rocky or wooded hillsides. They prefer sandy soil with limestone rock. Flathead snakes are active from April to October. Otherwise, they hide underground. 

Flathead snake mating happens in late April or May. Then, sometime in June, the female lays approximately 1-4 eggs, with the hatching occurring by the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. 

How Big Do Flathead Snakes Get?

Flathead snakes grow as large as 7-8 inches.

©MRoald/Shutterstock.com

Flathead snakes grow as large as 7-8 inches. They rank 5th in the list of the top 10 smallest snakes worldwide, after the Barbados threadsnake, the Brahminy blind snake, the variegated snail eater, and the Texas blind snake. Due to their appearance, flathead snakes are often mistaken for earthworms, but their salmon-pink bellies can help you tell them apart.

What is the Largest Flathead Snake Ever Recorded?

The longest flathead snake recorded, though unofficial, measured 9.606 inches long.

Unfortunately, there is no official information regarding the largest flathead snake ever found. However, the longest specimen found in Kansas measured 9.606 inches. It was collected sometime between 1938 and 1941 in Cowley County by Charles E. Burt. Even though there aren’t any other records, this specimen could easily be the biggest flathead snake in the world, as it’s significantly longer than the average snake in the species. 

However, Roger Conant and Joseph T. Collins state in “Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America” that the maximum length of the flathead snake is 9.875 inches. 

Where in the United States do Flathead Snakes Live?

Flathead snakes can be found throughout the United States. They are common in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. It is Missouri’s and Illinois’ smallest snake. 

Are Flathead Snakes Poisonous?

The flathead snake has venom, but its toxins are not dangerous to humans because they’re too small to deliver an amount of poison that would cause damage. Their venom is not even adapted for poisoning mammals. In fact, they are adorable animals that do not scare even those with the most overwhelming ophidiophobia (snake phobia)! They do not bite and are not aggressive. Flathead snakes use their venom only to catch and subdue their prey. 

Blackhead and flathead snakes are both in the

Tantilla

genus of the

Colubridae

family.

©iStock.com/Erin Donalson

Yes, blackhead and flathead snakes are related. They are both in the Tantilla genus of the Colubridae family. Blackhead snakes consist of the Chihuahuan blackhead snake, the western blackhead snake, the southwestern blackhead snake, the Big Bend blackhead snake, the plains blackhead snake, and the Mexican blackhead snake. The scientific term for blackhead snakes is Tantilla hobartsmithi

These snakes are brown-reddish and have black heads. Like their relatives, they mainly spend their time under rocks. Blackhead snakes are pretty small, their average size being 8 inches. 

Larry Miller found the largest blackhead snake on May 18, 1985. He collected the snake in Phillips County, Texas. It measured 14.625 inches, which is an extraordinary length for this species!

Blackhead snakes live in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Colorado. They eat insect larvae, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, and even scorpions. Their predators are bigger snakes and birds of prey. 

Like flathead snakes, blackhead snakes have venom, but it’s harmless to humans because they do not have a well-developed venom delivery system.

Can You Keep a Flathead Snake as a Pet?

Flathead snakes are definitely recommended as pets if you’re a snake enthusiast! They are not aggressive, do not bite, are not venomous, and do not need a large tank to live in! If you choose a flathead snake as a pet, consider its diet and keep it in a separate space from your other pets, if you have any.

For example, if you have any spiders, you might consider keeping them far away from your snake since flathead snakes feed on spiders.

Other Record-Breaking Snakes

Burmese python on white

Burmese pythons

can become 26 feet long!

©White Space Illustrations/Shutterstock.com

There are a number of snakes that have made it into the record books. One of the most well-known is Medusa, a reticulated python found in Missouri. She was measured at 25 feet 2 inches and weighed 350 pounds – making her the longest snake ever kept in captivity! Another impressive reptile is Baby, an African rock python who holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest snake when alive. It measured more than 17 feet long!

Ball pythons, also known as royal pythons, are one of the most popular pet snakes due to their calm demeanor and a wide array of color morphs. They reach an average length of 3-5 feet but can reach up to 6 feet in captivity with proper care. The longest recorded Ball Python was 27 feet long! Burmese Pythons are some of the largest snakes in the world and can grow to massive sizes under good conditions. They have been documented growing up to 26 feet long and weighing over 200 pounds! It is not uncommon for wild individuals to exceed 20-foot lengths as well.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © MRoald/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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