The nonvenomous pine snake indigenous to the southeastern parts of the United States gets its name after pitys, the first half of its genus name translating to pine. It is also known by other names like pinesnake, bullsnake, eastern pine snake, carpet snake, and pilot snake.
It has three recognized subspecies: the black pine snake, Florida pine snake, and northern pine snake, each differing from the other in color, for instance, the black pine snake is black or dark brown. However, the physical features mostly remain the same.
Length: 48–90 in (120–230 cm)
Weight: 4–8 pounds (1.8–3.6 Kg)
Body and Coloration: The snake has a robust build. Its head is smaller than its body, similar to a turtle in appearance. Their snout remains slightly pointed, protruding over the lower jaw.
They range from white to light grey or even yellow, overlaid with dark black, brown, or reddish-brown blotches on their back and sides, getting darker at the head and lighter near the tail.
The juveniles appear dull at the onset, with their body color brightening upon shedding.
They are found mainly in the southeastern part of the U.S., but their distribution is inconsistent. Pine snakes occur throughout Florida and the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. They may even inhabit parts of Tennessee, Virginia, northern Georgia, and the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey.
It mainly dwells in the dry upland forests, specifically pine woods and coniferous areas. The drained and sandy soil regions of the forest openings are ideal baskings and nesting spots. During summer, one could find them adjacent to fallen logs, while in winter they hibernate near leaf litters.
It lives for 20 years in captivity, and for a lesser duration in the wild.
What Do They Eat?
They consume various prey, including small mammals, pocket gophers, mice, rats, moles, birds, eggs, lizards, and amphibians.
Pine snakes are diurnal, though some subspecies are active at night..
To raise their body temperature, these snakes often bask in the morning sun.
Though terrestrial, sometimes they climb trees or low bushes.
When disturbed, like other snakes, it will hiss loudly, sometimes flatten its head, vibrate its tail, and may even strike at an intruder if touched.
They dig burrows underground and hibernate during the winter months.
The pine snake is often preyed upon by raptors, short-tailed shrews, raccoons, striped skunks, red foxes, domestic dogs, and cats.
The cartilaginous ridge in front of their vocal cords, helping them in hissing loudly, especially when angry or in danger. Scientists speculate their hissing to mimic the poisonous rattle snake’s sound.
Their sharply pointed snout aids in digging.
Do Pine Snakes Bite?
Pine snakes inflict a painful bite that does not cause severe damage because of their low venom levels.
Mating and Reproduction
These snakes are polygynous, i.e., one male mate with multiple partners of the opposite sex. They do so during the spring after which the female lays 3-24 eggs in communal nests.
The hatchlings measure around 13 to 18 inches in length and fend for themselves after birth. They become sexually mature at 2-3 years.
The species is labeled as “LC” or “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, habitat loss and illegal trading have led to a depletion in their population.
The oldest known pine snake lived for 22 years 5 months and 1 day.
Though easy to maintain when kept in captivity, they do not make a good pet choice because of their increased appetite and large space requirement.