Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus aestivus)
This small, wiry species has a solid dark green dorsal coloration. The scales are keeled, giving the species a "rough" texture. The belly may be greenish-yellow or cream. The tail is proportionally quite long and prehensile. Regardless of the overall length, this species is never much bigger around than a pencil.
This species is also known as a Grass Snake.
This mostly arboreal species can be found in a variety of habitats, but seems to prefer areas with plenty of thick brush. This is especially true for lowland areas around water. In fact, one technique for finding the species is to shine a flashlight into tree limbs overhanging sources of water at night. The shiny belly scales of the snake reflect back the light and make them easier to see. Overgrown fence rows that run alongside roads also makes for good habitat.
This species spends a large portion of its time off the ground in brush or short trees. About 2-5 feet off the ground seems to be the preferred height. They are active during the day.
This species emerges from hibernation in the early spring. This is a vulnerable time for this species. The scenery has not yet "greened up" to put the snake's coloration to effect. Also, they seem to like basking on roads in the early morning. Many become road kill.
Breeding takes place in the spring. Females will lay their eggs later in the summer inside of hollow trees. Hatching takes place in the fall.
This species is a true insectivore (the only AR snake species that is). It preys exclusively on insects and spiders, with a preference toward the latter.
Prey is actively pursued. As this species approaches a potential prey item it usually sways back and forth. This actually disguises its approach as the movement replicates vegetation swaying in the wind. Prey is grabbed and may be shaken vigorously until it subdues. This species will sometimes walk its jaws around so that the prey goes down head-first, but other times swallows it in whatever direction it was originally grasped.
This species will tolerate handling, but seems uncomfortable. It may attempt to flop out of a handler's hands onto the ground. One technique that I have found successful in keeping the species calm while handling is to place it on a branching twig and then to hold the twig.
Just about the only defense this species has is its excellent camouflage. It is two-toned to blend in with its leafy surroundings from both above and below! It never bites and only rarely defecates in defense.
This species currently has no special protections in Arkansas.