Red-bellied Mudsnake (Farancia abacura)
Red-bellied Mudsnakes are stocky, shiny black snakes with red and black checkerboard bellies. The head is rounded and not distinct from the neck. Mudsnakes also have a sharp spine on the tip of their tails. Babies and juveniles resemble adults, but red bands may be present on their back. Scales are smooth and the anal plate is divided.
Red-bellied Mudsnakes are typically 3 feet in total length, although some individuals may slightly exceed 6 feet.
Red-bellied Mudsnakes are found in western Kentucky. These snakes inhabit swamps, river floodplains, sloughs and other aquatic habitats.
Red-bellied Mudsnakes mate in spring and females lay eggs under logs and other damp places in late spring or early summer. Females often stay with the eggs until they hatch in late summer. Adult Mudsnakes prey primarily on large, fully aquatic salamanders known as amphiumas and sirens.
Recently hatched Mudsnakes do not immediately enter the aquatic habitat. They spend their first winter on land. These young snakes are often found around wetlands in early spring. Mudsnakes do not bite when captured, but they will release musk and poke the captor with the tail spine. The Mudsnake is considered a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.