Northern cateyed snake

Leptodeira septentrionalis

SUBFAMILY

Xenodontinae

TAXONOMY

Dipsas septentrionalis Kennicott in Baird, 1859, Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. Five subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

Spanish: Culebra destinida, culebra nocturna.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a slender snake about 33 in (85 cm) long, with a moderately wide head and large eyes with vertical pupils. In gen-

eral, the color pattern is brown with irregular, darker brown spots. However, the pattern varies considerably over the range of the species. In some regions the dark blotches extend fully across the body, whereas in others the dark markings are limited to small, irregular spots down the middle of the back.

DISTRIBUTION

Distributed widely through the northern Neotropics, from southern Texas and Sinaloa, Mexico, to western Venezuela and northwestern Peru.

HABITAT

The northern cat-eyed snake is primarily an inhabitant of moist forests, but it also occupies drier habitats in western Mexico and Peru.

BEHAVIOR

This species is primarily arboreal, but it also engages in terrestrial activity, especially in drier portions of its range. Although it is rear-fanged, this species typically does not bite defensively when captured.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Frogs are the preferred prey of this species, which often forages among large choruses of calling males. Where frogs lay eggs on vegetation overhanging water, as in the case of the leaf frogs (Agalychnis), cat-eyed snakes also consume the eggs, pushing their faces into the mass of egg jelly to reach the developing embryos. In addition, lizards and even a snake have been reported as occasional prey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This snake is oviparous, laying about 10 eggs per clutch.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Although not listed by the IUCN, this species is listed as Threatened by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, reflecting its very limited range at the southern tip of that state.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Before the advent of effective fumigation, snakes of the genus Leptodeira frequently stowed away in bunches of bananas, arriving alive at ports such as New York City.

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