Amphibians

Reptiles

Slowinski's Cornsnake (Pantherophis slowinskii)

Description

This uncommon, medium-sized snake is grayish-brown with a series of large, alternating, chocolate-brown blotches. These blotches are often bordered in black. It has a spearhead marking on the head. The belly is checkered black and white, giving it an appearance of maize. (Its close relative, the Cornsnake, gets its namesake for this belly pattern!)

This snake was long considered an intergrade subspecies of the Red Cornsnake and Great Plains Ratsnake, but it has recently been elevated to species status and named to honor the memory of Joseph B. Slowinski. These three sister-species are probably best delineated in Arkansas by simply consulting a range map, given that their ranges in the state do not overlap.

While superficially this species resembles the Prairie Kingsnake, the spearhead marking present on the head of the Slowinski's Cornsnake is usually sufficient for identification. An imaginary cross-section of this species, as with all of the Ratsnakes, would be shaped like "a loaf of bread" (i.e. rounded top, steep sides, and flat belly).

As young, this species can be distinguished from the Eastern (Black) Ratsnake be considering the dark bar that runs through each eye. In the Slowinski's Cornsnake, this bar extends through the jawline and onto the neck whereas in the Eastern (Black) Ratsnake the bar extends only to the jawline where it stops abruptly.


Habitats

Little information is currently available regarding the habitats of this species in Arkansas. As with its sister-species, the Great Plains Ratsnake, it is an excellent climber and likely spends a large portion of its time up in trees!


Habits and Life History

This species is quite secretive. Its arboreal and nocturnal habits may account for why it is so infrequently encountered by humans.

Presumably, it follows an activity pattern similar to other Ratsnakes: hibernate through winter, breed in the spring, and lay eggs in the summer. Otherwise, little is known about the reproductive biology of this species in the state.


Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species feeds primarily on small mammals and birds. Little information is available about the foraging behavior for this species. It is likely to use a combination of sit-and-wait and active foraging, depending upon the type of prey it is hunting. Much of this behavior likely occurs "above our heads" in the trees, or at night, or both! Prey, when caught, is constricted and consumed.


Temperament and Defense

While individual temperaments may vary, this species is likely very similar in temperament to its sister-species, the Great Plains Ratsnake: tame and pleasant.

This species seems to use typical snake defense: musk and/or poop, bite if you have to, but primarily don't be seen! It is an amazing climber and blends in unbelievably with tree bark. Its nocturnal tendencies may also help it avoid potential dangers, such as day-foraging hawks and the like.


Conservation

At the time of this writing, no information was available concerning the current conservation status of this species. At the least, it is sure to warrant a rare status by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The lack of voucher specimens may indicate that further protections are also warranted.


State Distribution and Abundance

This species is known only from isolated localities in the southeastern part of the state. Trauth et al. indicates only a single locality in the state (Drew County). The abundance of this species is largely unknown, but the lack of voucher specimens seems to indicate that it is extremely rare.

Gallery

Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake Slowinski's Corn Snake

Contributors

  • kaptainkory May 13, 2006, at 11:16 PM (Original Contribution)

Bibliography

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.

Discussion

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Page last modified on January 02, 2016, at 07:08 PM