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The Herps of La Crosse

Living With Herps

Easy Herp Monitoring

Herps as Pets

General Herp Info

Suggested Reading and Bibliography


About Me and Contact Info

Northern Brown Snake 

(Storeria dekayi)

Description:  Brown Snakes are generally grayish brown with a cream or light brown stripe down their back, which is lined with small dark spots (see above pictures).  Their bellies are usually cream, buff, or light pink.  These are small snakes, with adults reaching only 9 to 13" and juveniles reaching only 2.5 to 4.5".  They are members of the family Naticidae, which includes garter snakes, red-bellied snakes, and water snakes.  Within Wisconsin, they are most closely related to Red-bellied Snakes.

Habitat/Ecology: Generally prefer open sandy areas or moist dense forests that are close to water, although I have also found them on bluff-sides in nearby Vernon County (WI).  They seem to have a moderate ability to withstand human disturbance and occasionally enter basements with cracks in foundation where they are presumably trying to hibernate.  Often they hide under debris or vegetation where they hunt small snails, earthworms or insects.

Remarks:  I have witnessed Brown Snakes in the La Crosse area on French Island near piles of metal rubble.  I have also heard reports of them in Hixon Forest and would assume they are relatively common in La Crosse.  Additionally, I have found gravid females under pieces of sheet metal in nearby Houston and Winona Counties (MN), and believe they were seeking higher temperatures to assist in embryo development.  Like Red-bellied Snakes, Northern Brown Snakes almost never bite and if they do, it rarely breaks the skin.  Again, this should not prompt people to believe that they make good pets due to their varied diet of small, seldom seen invertebrates.

Brown snakes are occasionally referred to as Dekay's snakes, or Dekay's brown snakes

These are small, harmless snakes that should never be killed.  Unfortunately, they are often treated harshly (without cause) by those who find them near their homes.

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