The Rough Green Snake: What You Need to Know

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The rough green snake is a small non-venomous reptile that inhabits the eastern and southern United States. This species is chiefly active during the day and is known for its preference for areas with tall, dense vegetation.

Rough green snakes are rarely found in open spaces where they would be more vulnerable to predators. They have a diet consisting mostly of slugs, snails, millipedes, beetles, sow bugs, and earthworms.

In addition to these prey items, rough green snakes will sometimes eat frogs or live prey such as lizards. This species reproduces on average once per year with a gestation period of about one month. Rough green snake eggs are laid in early summer and hatch 17 days later.


Rough green snakes can be encountered in the western United States (from southern California to northwestern Montana) and eastern Canada (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

The typical coloration is brown with many white or yellowish speckles. The brown may fade to nearly whitish in the spring, but the speckles persist into summer. The upper sides of the body are marked with black and yellow.

Small black or yellow marks may be present near the head. A narrow, blackish stripe runs across the upper lip. The lower belly is white or yellow with dark brown or black streaks or spots.

Rough green snakes feed on mice and other small rodents, grasses, and spiders. Although they are capable of chasing small animals, they generally do not kill them.

Common Habitats

Rough green snakes range from southern Canada and the United States, across Central America, and northward to eastern Peru and Colombia. The snakes can also be found in the Middle East.

The most common habitat of the rough green snake is open, dry areas with few trees. They also live in forest edge zones with tall grasses, pine trees, and other shrubs. They tend to avoid wet areas and dry areas with low vegetation.

Food and Diet

Rough green snakes are omnivorous, and like many snakes will eat virtually anything they can find. They eat amphibians, lizards, snakes, frogs, fish, insects, earthworms, small mammals, and fruit and vegetable matter.

They generally prefer living prey but will feed on dead animals if it is available. They will eat eggs, young, and even immature snakes.


Adults are mainly carnivorous and feed on small mammals and lizards. Their favorite food is a variety of snakes, including grass snakes, eastern hognose snakes, rat snakes, and small crocodilians. They will also consume frogs and crayfish.


Rough green snakes are often found in both tall and shortgrass prairie, oak woodlands, and oak savannah.


Rough green snakes mate in the fall and lay eggs in a clutch the following spring. Eggs are laid in the ground in a moist habitat.

The eggs are six to seven millimeters long and are made up of four to five rounded white ones with darker reddish-brown spots on them. The eggs hatch in six to eight weeks.


Rough green snakes are considered to be an offshoot of bad-tempered greens.


The rough green snake is active during the day. It is often found in grassy, dry, and disturbed areas. The female lays 5 to 18 eggs in a ground nest. The rough green snake usually lays from 20 to 40 eggs at a time.

The eggs are usually laid in mid-summer, but in very hot weather she may lay them as early as mid-spring or as late as late summer. The eggs hatch after about two weeks.

Feeding and Diet

The rough green snake feeds on any small creature that it can catch. It consumes several species of small mammals, lizards, small birds, shrews, and rodents. It often feeds in large groups.

In addition to eating prey, it swallows live, wounded insects or small lizards. It usually does not eat snakes, lizards, amphibians, or reptiles that are alive.

What is a rough green snake?

A rough green snake is a subspecies of a colubrid species called the green snake. Colubrid species are members of the family Elapidae, which is the largest of the approximately 550 snake species found in the Americas.

The green snake is not a native species to North America. The snake was probably originally introduced in the area now known as the Carolinas during the early European colonization of the New World, perhaps by the Spanish.

Why the name rough green snake? The snake’s appearance is variable. You will usually see the snake during the warmer part of the day, which is late morning to early afternoon. This is when they are most active and feeding.

How do I identify a rough green snake?

The distinguishing features of a rough green snake are one yellow-orange strip on each side of its back that extends from its throat to its tail. It also has a distinctive pair of white markings on each side of its neck.

These markings start behind the mouth and run down the length of the snake to its tail. The smooth green snake also has white stripes on its throat, but does not have the throat markings and has a much smaller triangular head.

Green snakes that have a yellow-orange stripe on each side of the back are a distinct species, but rough green snakes that have stripes on the back can be confused with smooth green snakes.

Where does the rough green snake live?

The rough green snake is common throughout the eastern U.S., from the Midwest west to the Rocky Mountains, and south to northern Florida, northern Texas, and central Mexico. Its habitat also includes the United States Virgin Islands, as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

How do I recognize this snake?

The rough green snake often is found along roadsides, around rivers, and in other brushy areas. This snake prefers dry habitats and, in the Eastern part of its range, often occurs near streams.

However, the snakes often will also be found in moist woodlands, open fields, gardens, and, occasionally, where the ground has been disturbed in an area already occupied by nonvenomous snakes such as eastern hognose snakes (Echis carinatus).

What should I do if I find a rough green snake in my home or yard?

The best way to avoid a snake bite is to reduce or eliminate any hiding places in your home where snakes may be hiding. Keep tall shrubs and overhanging tree branches trimmed. If possible, store your food outdoors, and cover your compost pile.

Keep boats and other outdoor equipment stored away from the house, and never store poisonous snakes or slithery creatures in the garage. Keep sheds, sheds, and garages well-fenced and keep all pets inside the house at night.

How do I protect myself and my family from a snake bite?

There are no effective treatments for snakebites, but antivenom is often administered. Call 911 if you are bitten or if you see someone bitten. If bitten, call a Poison Control Center for emergency assistance or call your local poison control center.


When describing a snake, it is useful to distinguish it from similar species. In this example, the hairy-legged rat snake and the black rat snake are not snakes. The “brown ratsnake” is not a snake, and the eastern black snake is not a snake.

Sadly, sometimes an animal falls victim to mistaken identification and the question remains “was it a snake?” Often we have no idea whether a snake bit the animal.

We need to rely on the reports of other people who were present to provide a definitive answer.

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