Carphophis vermis (common name western worm snake)[5] is a species of small, nonvenomous colubrid snake native to the United States.

Western worm snake
Carphophis vermis in Arkansas, USA
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Carphophis
C. vermis
Binomial name
Carphophis vermis
(Kennicott, 1859)
  • Celuta vermis
    Kennicott, 1859
  • Carphophiops vermis
    Cope, 1898
  • Carphophis vermis
    Stejneger & T. Barbour, 1917[1]
  • Carphophis amoena vermis
    Conant & Bridges, 1939[2]
  • Carphophis amoenus vermis
    — A.H. Wright & A.A. Wright, 1957[3]
  • Carphophis vermis
    — Conant & Collins, 1991[4]



The specific name, vermis, is Latin for "worm".[6]

Physical description


The western worm snake has a dark, black or purplish dorsal coloration, with a lighter, pink or reddish underside.[7]

Adults are usually from 19–28 cm (7.5–11 in) in total length (including tail); however, the maximum recorded total length is 37.5 cm (14.8 in).[8]

Geographic range


The western worm snake is found in the United States in southern Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, western Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, eastern Oklahoma, and northeastern Texas with isolated records from southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Arkansas and middle Tennessee.[4]



C. vermis is fossorial, and spends the vast majority of time buried in loose, rocky soil, or under damp forest leaf litter. It is abundant within its range, but rarely seen due to its secretive nature.[9]



Little is known about the mating habits of the western worm snake, but breeding likely occurs in the early spring. Eggs are laid in the early summer. Clutch size is normally 1-8 eggs, and hatching takes place in August or September. Hatchlings range in size from 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) in total length.



The western worm snake's diet consists almost entirely of earthworms,[9] but it will also consume soft-bodied insects.



If harassed, C. vermis will often release foul smelling musk from its cloaca. If handled, it may press its tail tip into the captor's hand as a defense mechanism.


  1. ^ Stejneger, L., and T. Barbour (1917). A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Carphophis vermis, p. 74).
  2. ^ Conant, R., and W. Bridges (1939). What Snake Is That? A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (with 108 drawings by E. Malnate). New York and London: D. Appleton-Century. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32. (Carphophis amoena vermis, p. 32 + Plate 2, Figure 5).
  3. ^ Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates, A Division of Cornell University Press. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes) (Carphophis amoenus vermis, pp. 110-112, Figure 35 + Map 12 on p. 105).
  4. ^ a b Species Carphophis vermis at The Reptile Database
  5. ^ "".
  6. ^ Mish, F.C. (Editor in Chief) (2004). Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Springfield Massachusetts: Merriam Webster. 40a + 1,623 pp. ISBN 0-87779-809-5. ("worm", p. 1444).
  7. ^ Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3. (Carphophis amoenus vermis, pp. 162-163).
  8. ^ Conant, R. (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Carphophis amoenus vermis, p. 175 + Plate 25 + Map 131).
  9. ^ a b Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Carphophis amoena vermis, pp. 102-104, Figure 20).

Further reading

  • Behler, J.L., and F.W. King (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Knopf. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Carphophis amoenus vermis, p. 592 + Plate 493).
  • Kennicott, R. (1859). "Notes on Coluber calligaster of Say, and a description of new species of Serpents in the collection of the North Western University of Evanston, Ill[inois]". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia [11]: 98–100. (Celuta vermis, new species, pp. 99–100).
  • Powell, R., R. Conant and J.T. Collins (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp., 47 color plates, 207 figures. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Carphophis vermis, pp. 402–403, Figure 187 + Plate 38).