Confirmation of a Range Extension for the Pine Woods
Snake (Rhadinaea flavilata)
HOWARD H. WHITEMAN, TONY M. MILLS, DAVID E. SCOTT, and J. WHITFIELD
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, South Carolina 29802
The range of Rhadinaea flavilata, the pine woods snake, is restricted primarily to
disjunct areas along the coasts of North Carolina to eastern Louisiana, including
most of Florida (Conant and Collins 1991; Myers 1967). One anomaly in this
distribution, from Aiken County, South Carolina, extended the range 150 km from
the coastline and 145 km from the closest previous record (Young 1988, as
shown in Conant and Collins 1991). This observation was based on a single
specimen collected in 1987. Here we confirm that range extension with the
addition of nine new individuals of Rhadinaea flavilata captured between
Specimens of Rhadinaea flavilata were captured during routine surveys on the
Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) by researchers from the
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). All snakes were captured by lifting
woody debris and cover boards or checking pitfall traps (Gibbons and Semlitsch
1991); individuals were then returned to the laboratory for measurement (SVL,
tail length, and in most cases, mass). All individuals were released because of the
rarity of this species and the ongoing monitoring of SRS herpetofaunal diversity by
All nine Rhadinaea flavilata captured since Young (1988) were found on the
SRS in Aiken County, South Carolina; pertinent data are presented in Table 1.
Capture sites form two distinct areas: Bay I I and Big Squirrel Bay are located
within several hundred meters of each other, and both are separated from Dry
Bay by 5km. Two other R. flavilata have been captured on the SRS but were
not measured. Both were collected at the Dry Bay locality.
These captures suggest that at least two populations of Rhadinaea.flavilata exist
on the SRS and confirm the initial range extension of this species by Young
(1988). Based on the available data, we propose that the actual range of R.
flavilata extends between the SRS and the coastline, at least along the Savannah
River and probably in some discontinuous way throughout South Carolina and
Georgia. Our logic is based on several aspects of the biology of this species. The
primary habitat of R. flavilata, wet pine flatwoods (Conant and Collins 1991), is
common between the SRS and the coastline in both South Carolina (Bennett and
Poland 1989) and Georgia (Wharton 1978). In addition, the secretive nature of
this species (Conant and Collins 1991; Martof et al. 1980) makes it unlikely that
individuals would be easily found. Even with the intensive sampling on the SRS,
that began in 1966 (Duever 1967) and has yielded more than 6000 snake
captures (Gibbons et al., unpubl. ms.), no R. flavilata was captured during the
first 22 years. We predict that drift fences with pitfall traps or cover board arrays,
set in typical R. flavilata habitat, would reveal other non-coastal populations of
this clandestine species in South Carolina and Georgia, as well as additional
populations on the SRS.
SREL Reprint #1989
Whiteman, H.H., T.M. Mills, D.E. Scott, and J.W. Gibbons. 1995. Confirmation
of range extension for the pine woods snake, Rhadinaea flavilata.
Herpetological Review 26:158.
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