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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of Smooth green snake.Zoom+ Smooth green snake. Photo courtesy of Brian Zarate.

Smooth green snake

Opheodrys vernalis

Species Group: Reptile

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern



As its name implies, the rough green snake is bright green, with a white belly. It grows to a length of 12 to 26 inches. It is a very slender snake, hard to find amongst vegetation due to its coloration.

The smooth green snake has smooth scales while the very similar looking rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) has keeled scales.

Image of Range of the smooth green snake in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the smooth green snake in New Jersey.


The smooth green snake occurs throughout the northeastern United States, from Missouri and the Dakotas in the west to the eastern seaboard from the northern half New Jersey in the south to Nova Scotia in the north. Their range also extends south along the Appalachian Mountains into West Virginia, and western Virginia. Smooth green snakes are only found in the northern half of New Jersey; rough green snakes can be found in the southern portion of the state.

This snake prefers upland grassy areas, especially grassy or rocky meadows. It is largely a terrestrial species, rarely climbing as opposed to the rough green snake which is an arboreal species.


This species eats mostly insects (especially caterpillars, grasshoppers, and crickets) and spiders.


Smooth green snakes are primarily active during the day and are usually active between the months of April to September in New Jersey.

This species is sexually mature within 2 years of age. 3-18 eggs are laid during the summer and hatch within 30 days. The eggs are laid under objects in damp areas, in rotting logs, or underground and this species may nest communally. They may also hibernate in large groups of up to 100-150 individuals. They have been known to hibernate in abandoned ant mounds.


In 2016, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended a Special Concern status for this species within the state, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date. The Special Concern status is largely due to population declines and habitat loss. Reasons for the decline in their population are loss of habitat, illegal capture for the pet trade, road mortality, and direct killing. This species, like many snakes, has an undeserved bad reputation and they are often killed, which is illegal in New Jersey.


The Endangered and Nongame Species Program would like for individuals to report their sightings of smooth green snakes. Record the date, time, location, and condition of the animal and submit the information by submitting a Sighting Report Form. The information will be entered into the state’s natural heritage program, commonly referred to as Biotics. Biologists map the sighting and the resulting maps “allow state, county, municipal, and private agencies to identify important wildlife habitats and protect them in a variety of ways. This information is used to regulate land-use within the state and assists in preserving endangered and threatened species habitat remaining in New Jersey.”

Text written by Mike Davenport in 2016.


  • NatureServe. 2015. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: January 9, 2016).
  • Schwartz, Vicki and D.M. Golden. 2002. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey. New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Reptilia
          Order: Squamata
             Family: Colubridae
                Genus: Opheodrys
                   Species: O. vernalis

Find Related Info: Reptiles, Special concern

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