Mountain Earthsnake
Virginia valeriae pulchra

** Harmless **

Common Name:

Mountain Earthsnake

Scientific Name:

Virginia valeriae pulchra



Virginia is derived from the Latin word virgo which means "virgin".


valeriae is to honor Miss Valeria Blaney, the first documented collector of the species.


pulchra is derived from the Latin word pulcher which means "beautiful".

Vernacular Names:

Average Length:

11 in. (27.9 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

12.6 in. (32 cm)

Record length:

15.5 in. (39.3 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier II - Very High Conservation Need - Has a high risk of extinction or extirpation. Populations of these species are at very low levels, facing real threat(s), or occur within a very limited distribution. Immediate management is needed for stabilization and recovery.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The dorsal scales of this subspecies are weakly keeled with 15 scale rows on the front portion of the body and 17 scale rows at mid- body and posteriorly. They are 4 inches long at birth and the adults usually average 8-10 inches with a maximum of 12 inches *1006*. This is a small nonvenomous snake reaching a maximum total length of 337 mm (13.3 inches). In Virginia, the maximum snout-vent length is 276 mm (10.9 inches) with a maximum total length of 320 mm (12.6 inches). The tail length/total length ratio is 11.0-21.8. Body scales are smooth, withouth keels, and are 17 in number around the midbody. The number of ventral scales is 107-128 and subcaudal scales number 22-45. The anal plate is divided. The body color is usually brownish but may be gray. The adults often have an irregular pattern of tiny black flecks on the dorsum. The venter is cream in color, as are the chin, infralabials, and supralabials. The adult females reach a larger maximum body length than adult males.

GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION: Male V. v. pulchra in Va. have a slightly higher average number of ventral scales (116.0+/-2.2, 113-118, n=4) and a higher average number of subcaudals (41.8+/-2.9, 38-45, n=4) than male V. v. valeriae (ventrals 113.8+/-3.2. 107-119, n=28; subcaudals 34.1+/-2.7, 29-40, n=28). The total V. v. pulchra sample exhibits a higher average number of ventrals + subcaudals (157.2+/-3.6, 154-162, n=5) than the sample of V.v. valeriae (146.6+/-4.4, 139-156, n=66). The largest known female Virginia valeriae in Va. (320 mm total length) is a V. v. pulchra; the largest V. v. valeriae female is 308 mm total length.*10760* Juveniles (76-86 mm snout-vent length) are patterned an colored as the adults *9286*.

REPRODUCTION: They have up to 12 young in the late summer *1006*. This species is viviparous, and the litter size in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is about 2-14 with birth occurring in August through early September. Spring and fall mating has been noted in New York *9286*. BEHAVIOR: This species usually stays underground except during heavy summer rains. When picked up they will seldom, if ever, bite. They will consume earthworms, small slugs, snails soft-bodied insects and insect larvae *1006*. They can be found under surface objects, such as rocks, logs and boards *9286*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: They are preyed on by mole snakes, scarlet snakes, milk snakes, raccoons and opossums. The young may also be preyed on by large spiders, certain beetles and toads *1006*. Collins (1991) suggested that V. v. pulchra should be elevated to full species status, largely because it was allopatric with V. v. valeriae. This suggestion and others have not been verified or accepted by the herpetological community. Any taxonomic conclusion about the specific status of pulchra should a definitive systematic study.*10760*

POPULATION PARAMETERS: The maximum known longevity for this species is 4 years and 1 month *11523*.

References for Life History

  • 1006 - Linzey, D.W., M.J. Clifford, 1981, Snakes of Virginia, Univ. of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, VA
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11523 - Thorp, T.J., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert Review for GAP Analysis Project, Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Highland County
Verified in 1 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.