Opheodrys Vernalis – Smooth Green Snake

Opheodrys Vernalis - Smooth Green Snake information

The smooth green snake is a relatively small nonvenomous snake found throughout the Northeastern and Central United States. Its body is uniformely green with smooth scales. The smooth green snake can be confused with the larger nonvenomous rough green snake.


The smooth green snake is a uniformely colored snake without any patterns. Mostly, adult snakes are bright green with a white, light yellow or cream colored belly. The coloration of newborn snakes can vary from olive-green to greyish-green and even brownish. After their first shed after a few weeks, they will generally get their characteristic bright green color. Depending on their geographic distribution, the green coloration may vary. Specimen in and around Kansas often show a turquiose or even blueish coloration. Darker olive green or even brown-green colorations are also possible.

The scales of the smooth green snakes are always smooth, giving the snake a somewhat shiny appearance. Without a close look at the scales, the snake can be confused with the rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus). A similar-looking snake with keeled scales.

Opheodrys Vernalis - Smooth Green Snake information
A beautiful bright grenn smooth green snake found in Illinois. Photo: Peter Paplanus


Smooth green snakes reach an average length of 14-20 inches (36-50 cm). Therefore, they are relatively small snakes. The largest ever recorded smooth green snake was 26 inches (66 cm) long.

Medium sized green snake completely green black eyes in illinois smooth green snake
A relatively long western smooth green snake found in Illinois. Photo: Greg Schechter

Hunting Behavior and Habitat

The smooth green snake is mainly found in wet meadows, grasslands and clearings of coniferous forests. Its body coloration is perfectly adapted to camouflage the snake in green meadows. It is almost entirely insectivore, feeding on crickets, grasshoppers, moth larvae, spiders and caterpillars.

Western Smooth Green Snake in grass Opheodrys Vernalis blanchardi
Spotting the smooth green snake in grass can be quite tricky. Especially since the snake will generally flee from any approaching danger. Photo: Greg Schechter

Bite and Defense

The smooth green snake is a very docile nonvenomous snake. Due to its size, it doesn’t have many defense mechanism to chose from if a larger predator approaches. Therefore, its first line of defense is to flee from any approaching threat. If the snake is cornered, it can release a foul-smelling musk from its anal vent. Smooth green snakes can be handled by humans and rarely bite. In the unlikely event that the snake does bite, it will not have any significant effects and is unlikely to even cause a significant level of pain. When picked up, the smooth green snake often wraps around humans fingers.

Smooth green snake range in the USA

In addition the areas in Canada and Mexico, the smooth green snake can be found in the following U.S. States: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and New Mexico.

Subspecies of Opheodrys vernalis and their common name

  • Opheodrys vernalis vernalis – Eastern smooth green snake
  • Opheodrys vernalis blanchardi – Western smooth green snake
  • Opheodrys vernalis borealis – Northern smooth green snake

Scientific classification of Opheodrys vernalis

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Opheodrys
  • Species: Opheodrys vernalis
Opheodrys Vernalis – Smooth Green Snake

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