- Federal Status: Not Listed
- FL Status: State-Threatened
- FNAI Ranks: G3/S3 (Rare)
- IUCN Status: NT (Near Threatened)
The short-tailed snake (also called the short-tailed kingsnake) is a small, slender fossorial (adapted to digging and living underground) snake. It can reach a length of up to 20 inches (51 centimeters). Its body is gray colored with 50-80 brown spots that are separated by yellow to red sections. This species has a small head that is indistinct from its body, smooth scales, and a tail that makes up less than 10% of the body (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001, Campbell and Moler 1992).
The diet of the short-tailed snake primarily consists of small smooth-scaled snakes, particularly crowned snakes (Tantilla relicta) (Campbell and Moler 1992).
Little is known about the reproduction of the short-tailed snake. Females may be oviparous (lay eggs) and deposit eggs in burrows (Ernst and Ernst 2003). Short-tailed snakes are rarely found because of their fossorial nature, making observations of their reproduction difficult (Trescott 1998).
Short-tailed snakes can primarily be found burrowed in sandy soils, particularly longleaf pine and xeric (habitat that needs little water) oak sandhills, but they may also be found in scrub and xeric hammock habitats (Van Duyn 1939, Carr 1940, Campbell and Moler 1992, Enge 1997). This species is endemic to Florida, as they can only be found from the Suwannee River south to Highlands County (records from museums, FNAI, and the literature).
Alterations and destruction of xeric uplands seem to be the biggest threat to the short-tailed snake. The clear cutting of longleaf pine and turkey oak in their habitat is thought to seriously affect the short-tailed snake (Campbell and Moler 1992). Crowned snakes are abundant in xeric habitats and this loss of habitat affects their main food supply (Mushinsky and Witz 1993, Enge 1997). Increased predation from red fire ants is also a potential threat to the short-tailed snake (Mount 1981).
Campbell, H. W. and P. E. Moler. 1992. Short-tailed snake, Stilosoma extenuatum Brown. Pages 150–153 in P. E. Moler, editor. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Volume III. Amphibians and Reptiles. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
Carr, Jr. A. F. 1940. A contribution to the herpetology of Florida. University of Florida Publications, Biological Sciences 3:1–118.
Enge, K. M. 1997. A standardized protocol for drift-fence surveys. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Technical Report No. 14, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. 68pp.
Ernst, C. H. and E. M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C., USA. 668pp.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory. 2001. Field guide to the rare animals of Florida.
Mount, R. H. 1981. The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), as a possible serious predator on some native southeastern vertebrates: direct observations and subjective impressions. Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science 52:71–78.
Mushinsky, H. R. and B. W. Witz. 1993. Notes on the peninsula crowned snake, Tantilla relicta, in periodically burned habitat. Journal of Herpetology 27:468–472.
Trescott, E. 1998. The short-tailed snake (Stilosoma extenuatum). Reptiles Magazine 6(3):32-37.
Van Duyn, G. 1939. Extension in range of Stilosoma extenuatum. Copeia 1939:51–52.