Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A Smooth Greensnake from Riley County (ANSP 5666) collected around 1860. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
A Smooth Greensnake from Franklin County (UMMZ 67021) collected in 1928. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
Dorsal view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R5424) from Riley County, Kansas collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ.
Lateral view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R5424) from Riley County, Kansas collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ.
Ventral view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R5424) from Riley County, Kansas collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ.
Dorsal view of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R5424) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ.
Ventral view of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R5424) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ.
Lateral view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R177747) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ
Dorsal view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R177747) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ
Ventral view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R177747) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ
Lateral view of the head of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R177747) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ
Ventral view of a Smooth Greensnake (MCZ R177747) from Riley County, collected around 1880. Image courtesy the MCZ
REPTILIA (Reptiles) SQUAMATA (PART) (Snakes) COLUBRIDAE (Harmless Egg-laying Snakes)

Smooth Greensnake
Opheodrys vernalis (Harlan, 1827)
ō-fē-ō-drēz — vĕr-năl-ĭs


Conservation Status:

State: None

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S1 - Critically Imperiled
NatureServe National: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Global: G5 - Secure
CITES: None
Diagnosis:
HARMLESS. The length in Kansas is 14 to 20 inches. The Smooth Geensnake is bright green with a white to yellow, colored belly.
It differs from the Rough Greensnake by having smooth scales and a shorter and stouter body. Young North American Racers of similar size are blotched. Young Smooth Greensnakes resemble miniature adults.

Distribution:
Isolated records are known from the eastern half of Kansas. Records from adjacent Nebraska (where this species is locally common), indicate that Smooth Greensnakes may be expected to be found in grassy ditches and waterways from the Republican River (Phillips County) to the Blue River (Marshall County). See the Remarks below for a discussion of the resident status of this snake since 1861.
Elsewhere, they are found from northeastern Canada, west to Saskatchewan, south through Illinois and Virginia. There are isolated populations in areas of the western United States as well, including Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and northern Mexico.
Smooth Green snakes are found in moist, grassy areas, usually in prairies, pastures, meadows, marshes, and lake edges. In areas that are heavily cultivated, they are often surprisingly abundant in grassy waterways and roadside ditches. They are most often found on the ground or climbing in low bushes. They also bask on and hide beneath rocks, logs, and other debris.
(,   Museum Voucher) (,   Observation) (,   Literature Record) (,   iNat Record), (  Fossil)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
Full range depicted by light shaded red area. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 11
    Records 
  • 9
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 2
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Chautauqua (1); Crawford (1); Franklin (1); Jewell (2); Riley (5); Woodson (1);

Fossil History:
Not known from Kansas.

Natural History:
Smooth Greensnakes are active during the day from April to early October. They are always found near the ground and prefer the cover of grasses or low dense bushes along the edges of streams. They may also be found in meadows and on open brushy ridges.
Smooth Green snakes mate in the spring and late summer. Their cylindrical eggs (3-13 per clutch) are laid in shallow burrows, under rocks or logs, or in rotting vegetation from June into August. Many females will retain their eggs for much longer than other species of Kansas snakes and therefore the post-parturition incubation is often shorter (4-30 days). Females may share nest sites and the young hatch in late August to early September. They mature at two years of age.
Smooth Greensnakes feed on insects and other invertebrates.
They never attempt to bite when handled.

Occurrence Activity:
Number of Unique Obervations (=days): 4; Range: 24 May to 19 Sep
Remarks:
First reported in Kansas by Hallowell (1857) referenced two specimens on hand from Kansas that were received from Fort Riley surgeon William H. Hammond. The earliest existing specimen is (UMMZ 67021) was collected by William Doudna in Franklin County on 22 May 1928. However, MCZ R5424 and R177747 certainly predate UMMZ 67021. They were received and cataloged in a lot of eight specimens from Francis W. Cragin collected near Manhattan and did not have a collected or received date associated with them. Other specimens cataloged just prior and after Cragin's series were dated 1879 to 1881.
Cope (1860) reported two specimens (likely the same as Hallowell's) from "Kansas" collected by William A. Hammond and deposited in the Academy of Natural Sciences collection.
Yarrow (1882) reported this serpent from Kansas on the basis of a specimen (USNM 5236) collected by B. F. Goss from Neosho Falls in Woodson County sometime prior to February 1861 (the specimen was subsequently identified as Opheodrys aestivus, but cannot now be located; Addison Wynn, pers. comm.).
Branson (1904) next reported this small snake from six counties in Kansas but without specific localities or reference to specimens.
Smith (1931) and Hall and Smith (1947) reported single specimens from Riley (initially labeled as Coluber constrictor) and Crawford counties, respectively, but their specimens cannot be located for verification. Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported a Smooth Green Snake from Chautauqua County collected by William L. Hoyle at Camp Ta-la-hi 4.5 miles southeast of Cedar Vale on 29 July 1932. No voucher exists for this report and it cannot be verified.
Collins (1974) originally considered this serpent a member of the Kansas fauna but omitted it from his second edition (1982) following the recommendation of Rundquist (1979). Rundquist (1979) did not comment on the Burt and Hoyle (1935) report from Chautauqua County.
Prior to 2011, the only fully documented Kansas specimen (UMMZ 67021), collected from the Chippewa Hills in Franklin County on 22 May 1928 by Wilbur Doudna (reported by Gloyd 1928 and considered authentic by Taylor 1929a), was not enough evidence to convince Collins to retain the species, and it was omitted from Kansas in the third edition of Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas by Collins and Collins (1993) because no further evidence of its presence in the state had come to light in the intervening 65 years.
In addition, Howard K. Gloyd, a noted Kansas herpetologist, excellent field worker, and student at Ottawa University, spent many years in Franklin County, Kansas, and never discovered this snake there, despite collecting or recording extensively on the local amphibians and reptiles.
Gloyd (1928) wrote: "Only one Kansas specimen of this beautiful little snake has been seen by the writer. This was collected in the Chippewa Hills about eight miles southwest of Ottawa, May 22, 1928, by Wilbur Doudna. It was reported from Franklin County by Branson (1904) but the specimen on which this record was based could not be found. This locality is well within the range of the species but apparently, it is rare in this region. The specimen at hand (G 707) is a male. Scale rows 15, ventrals 132, caudals 93, supralabials 7, infralabials 8, oculars 2-2, temporals 1-2, total length 465 mm., tail length 167 mm. Since the color of this specimen in life was different from that of others seen by the writer in the eastern portion of its range, a color description is here given, using the terminology of Ridgway''s Color Standards and Color Nomenclature. Top and sides of the head above labials forest green; back and upper sides of the body and tail light elm green, sides paler on second and third rows of scales, the green color ending abruptly at the middle of the second row of scales; lower three-fifths of rostral white, upper part same as the top of the head; supralabials white with a very slight trace of green on upper borders; infralabials, chin shields land gulars white; lower sides of the body (first scale row and lower half of second) pale greenish-yellow, yellow extending faintly on outer edges of ventrals and caudals; ventrals and caudals white except for slight edging of yellow laterally; anteriorly ventrals faintly washed with yellow."
Anderson (1942) reported on several specimens observed from throughout Jackson County, Missouri (adjoins Johnson County, Kansas).
On 18 September 2011, Zach Byrne and William Weeks discovered a freshly killed specimen on a county road about a half-mile south of the Nebraska border and 100 yards south of the Republican River. Minutes later a second road-killed specimen was discovered by Ryan Shofner approximately 100 yards south of the first. Both snakes were collected in Jewell County in association with the Kansas Herpetological Society Fall Field Trip (Taggart, 2011). These two specimens may indicate that the specimens from Riley County (discredited by Rundquist, 1979) may warrant additional consideration.
Blais et al (2021) examined the phylogeography of the Smooth Greensnake throughout its range (including the recent specimens available from Kansas [FHSM 16049-50] and found a east/west split over the western Great Lakes region. The Kansas samples fall out into western group. To taxonomic recommendations were made regarding the two lineages that were discovered. Previous subspecies designations (Grobman 1941) were not supported.


Bibliography:
1856 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
Contains reference to twenty-four species collected from 'Kansas', and includes the original description of Microps lineatus (=Tropidoclonion lineatum) from Kansas on page 241.
1860 Cope, Edward D. Catalogue of the Colubridae in the Museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Part 3. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 12():553-566
1880 Cragin, Francis W. A preliminary catalogue of Kansas reptiles and batrachians Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 7():112-123
Also listed the Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) [=Ophibolus doliatus var. coccineus] and Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) [=Spelerpes ruber] from Kansas.
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
A summary of all herpetological species known at the time, with reference to specimens in the United States National Museum. Including one three Acris blanchardi from Fort Riley; Agkistrodon contortrix from Fort Riley; three Ambystoma mavortium from "Kansas" and another from Fort Riley; one Anaxyrus woodhousii from "Kansas"; one Anaxyrus cognatus from "Kansas" and another from Fort Riley; one Carphophis vermis from Fort Scott; three Coluber constrictor from "Kansas" and two from Fort Riley; one Crotalus horridus from 1858; one Diadophis punctatus from Hyatt [Hyette sic], Kansas (Anderson County); one Graptemys pseudogeographica from the Republican River in Kansas;   two Heterodon nasicus from Fort Riley; one Lampropeltis calligaster from Neosho Falls; one Lampropeltis holbrooki from Fort Riley, one from "Natchez", Kansas, and one other from Shawnee Mission, Kansas;one Lampropeltis gentilis from Fort Riley and one other from the Republican River, Kansas; one Pantherophis obsoletus from Fort Riley;fourteen Phrynosoma douglassi from "Kansas" and four from Fort Riley; three Phrynosoma cornutum from Fort Riley (Riley County);  three Pituophis catenifer from "Platte Valley", Kansas [likely from eastern Colorado prior to 1861] and two specimens from Fort Riley; one Plestiodon septentrionalis from Neosho Falls (Woodson County); one Plestiodon obsoletus from Fort Riley; one Thamnophis sirtalis from "Kansas"; one Nerodia sipedon from Fort Riley and another from Neosho Falls; one Scincella lateralis from Fort Scott (Bourbon County); one Thamnophis proximus from Fort Riley; four Sceloporus consobrinus from Fort Riley; one Tantilla nigriceps from Fort Riley; four Thamnophis sirtalis from "Kansas" and two from Little Blue River, Kansas; 
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1928 Gloyd, Howard K. The amphibians and reptiles of Franklin County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 31():115-141
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1931 Smith, Hobart M. Additions to the herpetological fauna of Riley County, Kansas. Copeia 1931(3):143
Three specimens of Tantilla nigriceps, one Opheodrys vernalis, and one Sistrurus catenatus are reported from Riley County, Kansas for the first time. The Opheodrys vernalis was cataloged into the collection as Coluber constrictor.
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1936 Hurd, Myron Alec. The reptiles of Cherokee County, Kansas. Thesis. Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas. 103pp.
Under the supervision of thesis adviser Harry H. Hall. Report on 38 species (8 turtles, 7 lizards, and 23 snakes)... most unsubstantiated. Interesting inclusion are Crotalus horridus, Crotalus viridis, Kinosternon subrubrum, Opheodrys vernalis, and Phrynosoma cornutum.
1936 Brumwell, Malcolm J. Distributional records of the reptilia and amphibians of Kansas. Privately printed, . 22pp.
County dot maps of the Kansas herpetofauna. This work has been attributed to have been written around 1933, but that may be in error. 
Hypsiglena jani was not known from Kansas until Claude W. Hibbard collected three specimens on the Stevenson Ranch in north-central Clark County (above Clark State Lake) during June 1936 (Hibbard, 1937). Brumwell plotted this locality, which leads me to believe that the 1936 would have been the earliest date this manuscript could have been written.
1941 Schmidt, Karl Peterson and D. D. Davis. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. C.P. Putnam and Sons, New York. 365pp.
1941 Grobman, Arnold B. A contribution to the knowledge of variation in Opheodrys vernalis (Harlan), with the description of a new subspecies. Miscellaneous Publications, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (50):38
1942 Anderson, Paul. Amphibians and reptiles of Jackson County, Missouri. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences 6(11):203-222
1947 Hall, Henry H. and Hobart M. Smith. Selected records of reptiles and amphibians from southeastern Kansas Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 49(4):447-454
Report on certain Kansas specimens housed in the collection at what is now Pittsburg State University. Included are several species of dubious status today, including Cryptobranchus alleganiensis from the Neosho and Spring rivers (the only specimens from those significant drainages ever documented), Ambystoma maculatum from just north of Pittsburg, Crawford County, Heterodon nasicus from Crawford County, Opheodrys vernalis from Crawford County, Sonora episcopa from Crawford County, Agkistrodon piscivorus from Cherokee County, Crotalus atrox from Crawford County, and Crotalus viridis from Crawford County. They report several significant range extensions including Kinosternon flavescens from Turkey Creek in southeast Cherokee County, Graptemys geographica from just north of Pittsburg, Crotaphytus collaris from near Columbus, Cherokee County, Sceloporus consobrinus from just north of Pittsburg, Phrynosoma cornutum from Cherokee and Crawford counties, Heterodon platirhinos from Cherokee and Crawford counties, Haldea striatula from Crawford County, Sistrurus tergeminus from Crawford County, and a 402 lb Macrochelys temminckii in Cherokee County from just east of Chetopa (Labette County). They allude to the potential for Anaxyrus fowleri to occur in southeast Kansas and for native populations of Crotalus atrox in south central Kansas (in part from the disclosure that John R. Breukelman [then of ESU] had obtained three specimens in Woods County Oklahoma, 3/4 of a mile south of the Kansas line). None of the specimens the paper was based on, exist today.
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
The first modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table and text say 97 on p. 10) and 13 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies.
1956 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. Second edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication (9):1-356
Hobart M. Smith's updated second edition of his first (1950) modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table says 97 on p. 10; text says 98 on p. 10) and 11 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies. The second edition has updated taxonomy, added Plestiodon laticeps, and removed Eurycea tynerensis.
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1967 Choate, Jerry R. Wildlife in the Wakarusa Watershed of Northeastern Kansas. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 46pp.
1970 Webb, Robert G. Reptiles of Oklahoma. Stovall Museum, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 370pp.
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
Joseph T. Collins first Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Smith 1956)>
1974 Platt, Dwight R., Joseph T. Collins, and Ray E. Ashton, Jr. Rare, endangered and extirpated species in Kansas. II. Amphibians and reptiles. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 76(3):185-192
The initial initiative to determine population and conservation status of Kansas' amphibians and reptiles based on our understanding at the time. A lot has changed regarding our increased knowledge on all the listed species.
1976 Ashton, Ray E., Jr., Stephen R. Edwards, and George R. Pisani. Endangered and threatened amphibians and reptiles in the United States. Herpetological Circulars (5):65
1977 Perry, Janice. Kansas herps needed. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (18):2-3
List of Kansas amphibians and reptiles desired for the SSAR/HL meeting to be held 7-13 August 1977.
1978 Curl, Richard L. Final Environmental Statement: Milford Lake Kansas operation and maintenance. US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. 158pp.
Notable mentions: Spotted Salamander, Smooth Green Snake
1979 Rundquist, Eric M. The status of Bufo debilis and Opheodrys vernalis in Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 82(1):67-70
Examines the distribution and status of Anaxyrus debilis and Opheodrys vernalis in Kansas. He rejects records of A. debilis from Barber, Greeley, and Hamilton counties and O. vernalis from Riley and Geary counties. The status of A. debilis in Kansas is considered valid, while the status of O. vernalis is considered questionable.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
Joseph T. Collins second Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1974)>
1984 Brown, Kenneth L. Pomona: A plains village variant in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Dissertation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 519pp.
1984 Secor, Stephen M. and Charles C. Carpenter. Distribution maps of Oklahoma reptiles. Oklahoma Herpetological Society Special Publication (3):1-57
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
Joseph T. Collins third Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1982)>
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 131pp.
2004 Walley, H. D. Liochlorophis, L. vernalis.. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (776):1-13
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
Joseph T. Collins fourth Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1993)>
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 Fall Field Trip to Lovewell State Park Journal of Kansas Herpetology (39):4-5
2011 Shofner, Ryan M. Smooth Green Snakes (Liochlorophis vernalis) in Kansas: A history and rediscovery Journal of Kansas Herpetology (40):8
2012 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada: Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 152pp.
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Recent scientific and standard English name changes effecting the Kansas herpetofauna. Collinsorum 3(2-4):9-10
2015 Rohweder, Megan R. Kansas Wildlife Action Plan. Ecological Services Section, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in cooperation with the Kansas Biological Survey. 176pp.
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2017 Crother, Brian I. (editor) Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. Eighth edition. Herpetological Circulars (43):1-102
2019 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada. Third Edition. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 192pp.
2020 Roberts, Kory G. Arkansas Herpetological Atlas 2019: Distributions of Amphibians and Reptiles. http://www.herpsofarkansas.com/wiki/uploads/Herp/Atlas/arherpatlas2019.pdf, . 172pp.
2020 Daniel, Richard E. and Brian S. Edmond. Atlas of Missouri Amphibians and Reptiles for 2019. Privately printed, Columbia, Missouri. 86pp.
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
2021 Blais, Brian R., Brian E. Smith, John S. Placyk, Jr., Gary S. Casper, and Garth M. Spellman. Phylogeography of the Smooth Greensnake, Opheodrys vernalis (Squamata: Colubridae): Divergent lineages and variable demographics in a widely distributed yet enigmatic species. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society XX():1–18
Discovered an east/west phylogeographic split within the Great Lakes region. Two samples from Jewell County, Kansas (FHSM 16049-50) were used in the analysis.
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Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University