Aug 7, 2020
No need to pity Indiana's snake population, but let's acknowledge that misconceptions abound about the reptiles that commonly evoke terror and scorn. Of the many species of snakes native to the state, only four are considered venomous.
Hoosier History Live will spotlight those four - including the most rare, the dreaded water moccasin (also known as the cottonmouth) - along with a range of others in the spectrum of snake species. We also will discuss a lizard that's often mistaken for a snake because it is legless.
The insights will come from Nelson's guest, herpetologist Nate Engbrecht of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Some tidbits about a few of the snakes that can be found on Hoosier soil (or in the water):
The legless lizard that resembles snakes is the glass lizard. Of the six species of lizards found in Indiana, the glass lizard is the only one without limbs. According to Nate, glass lizards can reach 2 to 3 feet in length, although their tails often comprise nearly 70 percent of that.
Glass lizards - which are found in grasslands, sandy woods and the Dunes in northwest Indiana - are so named because their tails tend to break easily when they are handled. The tails regenerate, but the replacement often is not as long as the original, Nate says.
He adds that, although glass lizards are "snake-like in appearance," they have eyelids and ear openings, features lacking in snakes found in Indiana.
Across the state, lakes, marshes, ponds, ditches and other aquatic habitats are home to the common watersnake that often is mistaken for a water moccasin. Although the common watersnake is not venomous, Nates says they tend to be "feisty when handled."
Another species that can be found statewide is the eastern milksnake. A medium-sized snake that sometimes has a brilliant red body, the eastern milksnake occasionally is discovered around farms and barns.
It is not venomous, nor is Dekay's brownsnake, which Nate describes as a small, unassuming snake that typically is gray or brown. He notes that the Dekay's brownsnake benefits gardeners by eating slugs.
Nate joined botanist Michael Homoya as a guest last November for a Hoosier History Live show about rare species of plants and animals in Indiana.