The smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis) is a bright emerald green colour with a creamy white or yellowish belly. The dorsal scales of this species are smooth, and it has a divided anal plate. Hatchlings are blue-grey to dark green at birth. This snake can grow to 66 centimetres in length but is more commonly 30 to 50 centimetres long. Dead smooth greensnakes sometimes turn blue from loss of pigmentation.
No other snakes in Ontario are a uniform bright green. Smooth greensnakes that have turned blue after death may be misidentified as blue racers. In Ontario, however, blue racers occur only on Pelee Island, where smooth greensnakes do not live.
The smooth greensnake is found in a variety of habitats, including prairies, meadows, fields, wetland edges, forest clearings and open woodlands. It can often be found under cover, such as logs, rocks and boards. This species is most often found in habitats with grass and other dense vegetation, in which its green coloration provides excellent camouflage, protecting this snake from predators. It hibernates communally underground, often in very large groups and with other species of snakes.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of smooth greensnakes in Ontario.
Smooth greensnakes breed in spring or early summer. The female lays two to 11 cylindrical eggs in late summer in rotting logs, underground burrows or under boards or rocks. The eggs hatch in one to three weeks, depending on the temperature. The hatchlings are 10 to 16 centimetres in length and mature in about two years.
The smooth greensnake is an insectivore and eats caterpillars, spiders, crickets and other insects. This species may burrow into soil and decaying woody debris in search of food and can climb shrubs, tall grasses and small trees. The life span of the smooth greensnake in the wild is unknown, but individuals of this species caught as adults have lived for over five years in captivity.
Other names: smooth green snake, Liochlorophis vernalis, Coluber vernalis
Threats and Trends
The smooth greensnake is believed to be widespread and abundant in Ontario. Habitat loss and degradation may negatively affect local populations of this species. Predators include other snakes, birds and mammals, including housecats. As with all of Ontario’s snake species, road mortality is a threat, especially in southern Ontario.
Current Status and Protection
Neither the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario nor the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed the status of the smooth greensnake. The species has been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which offers protection to individuals but not their habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the smooth greensnake as Least Concern. The species’ status was confirmed in 2010.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.