WORLD PITUOPHIS WEB PAGE BY PATRICK H. BRIGGS

GOPHER SNAKES, PINE SNAKES & BULL SNAKES

BLACK PINE SNAKE

 

 

 

 

 

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

This is the head study of a large and powerful female Black pine snake.

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

BLACK PINE SNAKE (Blanchard, 1924)

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

By Patrick Briggs

In accordance with an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and Wildearth Guardians,  organizations that have quickened the pace of decisions regarding species protection, along with 757 other species,  the Black Pine Snake Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi will be protected as a threatened  species (it is actually a subspecies) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) effective on November 5, 2015 which is 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register on October 6, 2015. A creature designated as threatened means that it is at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future. The  United States Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed rule to list the black pine snake as threatened on October 7, 2014. Many years earlier, the black pine snake had been added to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of candidates for federal protection in 1999. Additionally, there will be exemptions permitted under Section 4(d) of the ESA allowing specific management activities to continue and by excluding some standard regulatory actions in order to benefit the subspecies' recovery. Some of these include making sure that working land continues with its regular activities, reductions to some regulatory obstacles, and advising landowners ahead of time what is expected from them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has proposed more than 330,000 acres of critical habitat for the Black pine snake that will also benefit many other creatures and organisms within that ecosystem. Those decisions regarding critical habitat actions will be delayed until 2016. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service stated: "This snake’s decline is primarily attributed to the loss and degradation of the longleaf pine ecosystem because of habitat fragmentation, fire suppression, conversion of natural pine forests to densely stocked pine plantations, and agricultural and urban development. Other threats to the snake’s survival include road mortality and killing by humans."

The United Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) agrees that the wild black pine snake must have protection, but it also recognizes the importance and of keeping captive populations and maintaining the rights of so many private collectors and zoological organizations who have contributed much of what is known about this pine snake especially those who breed them regularly, and pass on significant information about them. USARK have simply fought for exclusion from regulatory burdens using an additional 4(d) rule of the ESA.

 

History:  The Black pine snake Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi is named after Dr. Henry Peter Loeding (a naturalist and entomologist around 1945). In a report in the Copeia journal No. 81, April 15, 1920, beginning on page 30, Frank N. Blanchard a biologist from the University of Michigan described a female form of Pituophis (1,800 millimeters total length)that was large and black both above and below, except for some rusty highlights on the face and under the tail. It had been found dead in southern Alabama on a road by a friend and associate, Dr. Loeding. Subsequently, it was sent to Blanchard for examination. This was the first example of a black form of Pituophis to ever be reported anywhere and also the first specimen of the genus to be reported from Alabama. It is currently preserved as 62340 at the U.S. National Museum. Loeding found it about 14 miles southwest of Mobile, Alabama near Hall's Mill Creek. Later, another female was found by E. D. King Jr. 12 miles further southwest than the first black Pituophis at Grand Bay. That specimen was found alive. These two snakes were the first specimens used to describe this form. Many others have subsequently been found, and live individuals collected, successfully bred in private collections, researched, and studied. They have also been tracked through radio-telemetry for scientific studies. The Nature Conservancy has tracked and monitored black pinesnakes at Camp Shelby since 2004. Recently, May 24, 2015, Bradley Wagstaff observed and photographed a DEAD ON ROAD Black pine snake near Perkinston , Alabama of Stone County.(See online: Naturalista Black Pine Snake). Although the Black pine snake still is rarely seen in the wild due to its fossorial (underground) habits, it now is well known to science and the animal trade. It also is prized and consistantly bred in captivity.

Classification: All pine snakes are members of the Class Reptilia, Order Squamata, Suborder Serpentes, and the Family Colubridae. The Black pine snake Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi is one of 3 subspecies of the species Pituophis melanoleucus.The other two include the nominate form called the Northern pine snake Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus, and the Florida or Southern pine snake Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus. Another pine snake also exists in Louisiana and Texas relegated not too long ago as a separate species. It is the Louisiana pine snake Pituophis ruthveni, for sometime, considered by many authorities to be the rarest snake in the U.S. The Black pine snake is an oviparous(egg-laying) non-venomous constrictor. It is distinguished from other pine snakes by simply being dark brown or black on the upper and sometimes, lower surfaces of their bodies.The individuals vary in color as adults, some having reddish-brown snouts and others with white on the throat and ventral surface. Most, but not all, have blotching or partial rings barely visible toward the rear of the body and tail. Young black pine snakes hatch with blotches and spots typical of other pine snakes, but with each outer skin slough, it becomes darker and the markings fade out. The head of the black pine snake is disproportionately small and the snout is fairly pointed. The scale on the snout tip is the rostral that divides the internasals for about 2/3rds their width and is raised or "cornified" much higher than adjacent scales. This is a fossorial adaptation for burrowing and for pushing sand, gravel, and soil. Although Black pine snakes have keeled scales on the upper scale rows, the lower 5 rows on each side are smooth.

Habits: The Black pine snake is a powerful non-venomous snake that kills its prey by constriction. Black pine snakes are diurnal ophidians (snakes) which means that they are usually active during the daytime. The adults usually frequent rotted-out root systems as their daily retreat sites and the younger snakes prefer small mammal burrows. They prey on a variety of creatures including small rodents such as very young rabbits, gophers, cotton rats, and cotton mice. They also feed on young birds and their eggs. The small mammals such as young rabbits, baby squirrels, rats, and mice are grasped in the mouth and then constricted before being eaten. Gophers and other rodents found underground are simply pressed against the sides of the burrow or tunnel. Young birds and hairless young rodents are usually and effortlessly eaten alive. When upset or threatened they will hiss loudly, shake their tail similar to a rattler,  and strike repeatedly at the intruder.

Black Pine Snakes  begin mating from about the end of February and March. They find mates through scent tracking. Their forked tongues are extracted and retracted constantly to bring in molecular scent particles into a paired olfactory mechanism inside the mouth palate that merges with the nasal region. The smell-taste mechanism allows them to identify food, mates, and other information. The males using their mouths will grasp the females by the head or body to gain leverage and line up the tails for mating. One to two months later, beginning around April throughout August, they will deposit eggs in nests that females have modified from tunnels or burrows of other animals such as armadillos,  rabbits and other smaller rodents, or tortoises. They will also deposit their eggs under large boulders,  woodpiles or in thick piles of leaf litter, sandy soil debris, or any natural substrate that will hold humidity and maintain ideal temperatures from about 80-85 degrees fahrenheight. These snakes seem to have smaller clutches of somewhat larger eggs (1-6) than other forms of pine snakes except, the Louisiana pine snake that has enormous eggs. Within 7-9 weeks, young Black Pine snakes hatch by cutting slits in the leathery eggs utilizing a temporary egg tooth on the snout.  The Black Pine Snakes hatch measuring about 18-22 inches (45-56 cm). The adults normally attain lengths from 48-64 inches (122-163 cm),  but the record has been reported to be 89 inches (226 cm) for a wild collected specimen. I have kept and bred a captive bred male approaching 80 inches with his female partner not too far behind in length.

This snake is endangered in Mississippi, probably extirpated in Louisiana, and is rare in other areas within its range. Because less than 5% of its natural habitat remains, the ecosystem where it has lived is now one of the most critically endangered in the U.S. Authorities feel that the snake is currently most abundant in the DeSoto National Forest. Natural fires have been a critical factor in maintaining the open areas of habitat bordering and within mature longleaf pine woodlands where the Black Pine Snake lives. This form needs both the thick forest habitat and large open areas that are clear of trees to survive. Wild fires in the past have always created these areas, but if these fires are not allowed to burn and are put out by aggressive fire fighting methods, there will be no open areas, and the habitat will disappear. As reported earlier, on November 5, 2015, the Black Pine Snake will be protected as a threatened species ( actually, it is a subspecies) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We can only hope that the changes due to this protection listing, such as managing and protecting specific lands, replacing  non-native pines and shrubs with native longleaf pines and folliage, allowing moderate fires to burn, and the many other measures will be successful for the Black Pine Snake and the many other indigenous plants and creatures within their range that had flourished in the past for centuries.

 

 

 

 

 In this beautiful habitat is one of my Black pine snakes, Brute who is over 79 inches and an enormous pack of muscle.

Digital Image by Pat Briggs October 23, 2015

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi 
Brute, my 78" male Black Pine Snake.
Photo image by Patrick Houston Briggs
 
 
 
Eats hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus)



 

Jessica Briggs displays a large male Black Pine snake Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi.

Photo by Patrick Briggs April 20, 2015 

 

 

 Below is Elvyra, one of my adult Black pine snakes depositing eggs on May 22, 2014

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs 

This Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi hatched July 21, 2014 nearly two months after egg deposition.

Digital Image by Pat Briggs

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi hatching July 21, 2014 nearly two months after oviposition.

Digital Image by Patrick H. Briggs

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi  (One of my new Black Pine snake babies just hatched 13.5 inches)

Digital Image by Patrick Briggs

 

 

 Below is my little hatchling Black Pine Snake more than one month later.

Digital Image by Patrick Briggs 

 

 Below is my little hatchling Black Pine Snake more than one month later.

Digital Image by Patrick Briggs

 

 Its best chances for survival have been reported and seem to be in De Soto National Forest where both the snake and its habitat is protected.

 

Close up left side head study of my youngest adult female Black Pine Snake

If you look close at her eye, you can see my reflection photographing her.

Digital Photo Image By Patrick Houston Briggs

 

 Full body of my youngest adult female Black Pine Snake. She is still very large for a yearling at 61".

Digital Image by Pat Briggs 2014

 

 

 

Scutellation

 

Rostral                         Cornified above adjacent scales and dividing the internasals 2/3rds width.

Mid-body Scales         19-32 (First 5 rows from the belly smooth, other rows become progressively keeled.)

Supralabials                7-8

Infralabials                 13-15

Preoculars                  1-2

Postoculars                 2-4

Prefrontals                  Usually 4 (sometimes additional azygous scales)

Temporals                   4 (first row)

Ventrals                       213-225 female, 212-221 male               

Caudals                        58-66  male, 52-58 female                

Anal                              Entire 

 

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hghjim/2217153548/in/set-72157603233540189/

 

 

 Black Pine female right side lateral head study, female #1 Elvyra

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

 

(Less than typical arrangement of the upper head scales of Black Pine Snake) female breeder #1 Elvyra

Notice the azygos forming 5 prefontals, 3 make contact with the frontal. The frontal scale has a suture half way up the center-front of the scale.

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

 

 Here's another one of my female Black Pine Snakes with the four pre-frontal arrangment more typical to the Pituophis clade.

Digital Image by Pat Briggs 2014

 View of the throat and chin of Black Pine Snake female #1 Elvyra

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

A view of the belly or ventral region of this female Black Pine snake

Photo by Patrick Briggs

 

 

Black Pine snake female #1

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

 

 Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

 

This hatchling below came out somewhat copper colored at first. Each time he sheds it will darken him.

Digital image by Patrick Houston Briggs

 Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

The neonate above and below hatched August 17, 2013 This is a digital image of him one month later on September 18.

Note that each time he sheds or sloughs his outer skin layer, his color will become darker!

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

Below is a digital photo of the belly of the one month old Black

pine snake, and the images below that, are nice views of his throat.

Photos by Pat Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

Here in some beautiful habitat is Charcoala, one of my large female Black pine snakes approaching 70".

Photo by Patrick Briggs, October 23, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

On April 21, 2015 Charcoala deposited these four eggs in this nest box that I had provided for her.

 

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi female adult left lateral head study

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

 

 The Black Pine Snake

 "Body viewed from above of an adult"

 Photo by Patrick Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

 

1. Click on this site for some Black Pine snake pictures:  http://scales.kazeo.com/serpents/pituophis-melanoleucus-lodingi-%28blanchard-1924%29,a2223572.html

2. Nice images of Black Pine snake in Mississippi: Click here  http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1162

3. Florida Intergrade Black Pine snake map range;  http://www.snakeestate.com/pine-snakes/black-pine-snake.html

4. http://www.outdooralabama.com/watchable-wildlife/Reptiles/Snakes/bps.cfm

5. Young captive Black pine snake video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD8ehEdQ-fU

6. Black Pine Snake in southeastern Louisiana (Washington Parish) MAP http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/serpentes/black-pine-snake

7.To order black pine snakes: http://www.LLLReptile.com

8.A nice black pine snake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hghjim/2044761609/sizes/l/in/set-72157603233540189/

9. More  great info on the Black pine snake:  http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1563066?uid=3739560&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102046130751

10. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=C029

11. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hghjim/2403786273/in/set-72157603233540189

12. http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/wwww/2012/05/03/woodlands-of-escambia-county/

13. http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+1208+0320

14. http://www.city-data.com/county/Escambia_County-FL.html

 


Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

One of my young breeder females #1 Elvyra

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs

 

 

Black Pine head study

 Here's an individual with lighter color on the head. Note the orange-cinnamon mixed into the black as described

 by Dr. Blanchard on the first animal ever described that was sent to him by Dr. Loeding from near Mobile Alabama many years ago.

Photo by Pat Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

 

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

 Here's a head study under the throat of an individual with lighter coloration.

Photo by Patrick Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

 

 

15. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hghjim/2403786055/in/set-72157603233540189

16. Nice range map for melanoleucus races: http://www.conservationsoutheast.com/infops.htm

17.  http://www.freewebs.com/dnsreptiles/blackpinesnakes.htm

18. A beautiful close head study of an "Escambia County" black pine snake: a.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/hghjim/8576151110/in/set-72157603233540189

                                                                                                        b.     http://www.outdooralabama.com/watchable-wildlife/what/Reptiles/Snakes/bps.cfm

19. 3rd Eye Pituophis breeders images of Black pine snakes:  http://www.thirdeyeherp.com/blackpine.htm

20. *** Very interesting info on this black race of pine snake when first discovered: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1435931?seq=1

21. DNS Reptiles (Dave Niles)  http://www.freewebs.com/dnsreptiles/blackpinesnakes.htm

22. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1670/08-074R1.1?journalCode=hpet

 

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy Rick Smith (A Young Snake Below)

 

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy John Ginter (A Mature Adult Below)

 

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy John Ginter (A Lateral Head Study Below)

 

 

 Black Pine Snake neonate one month old below.

 Photo by Patrick Briggs

 

 Black Pine snake one month old.

Photo by Patrick Briggs

 

 

 

 Belly View of a Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi neonate one month old.

Photo by Patrick Briggs

 

 

 Below illustrates another one month old black pine snake throat view. This neonate's belly and throat and belly are much lighter than it's sibling.

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

 

 

   The Black Pine Snake

"Study above the head, note the four pre-frontal scale arrangement"

Photo by Pat Briggs Courtesy Pete Marshall

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

Below is a head and tongue study of  Lucifer, one of my adult male Black pine snakes P. melanoleucus lodingi from parent stock of extreme central eastern Louisiana

on the upper front boot in the Washington Parish region, not to be confused with the Louisiana pine snake "ruthveni" of central Louisiana and Texas.

Digital photo image by Patrick Houston Briggs

 

Below is another digital image of Lucifer, a male Black pine snake from parent stock of extreme central eastern Louisiana (above the boot tip of the state).

Although he has more white on the face than some, as Lucifer grows bigger and older, with each molt of outer skin he will  become darker black.

Phtoto by Patrick H. Briggs 

 

 

 

 

 This is one of my new babies "lodingi" for 2013

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

 

DISTRIBUTION

Coastal Plain from extreme central-eastern Louisiana (Washington Parish, only the top of the state's boot tip) through southern Mississippi into southwestern Alabama in the Lower Coastal Plain and Red Hills regions west of the Alabama River. Recorded in Alabama from Mobile, Clarke, and Washington counties, and probably occurs in southern Choctaw County (Mount 1975). Intergrades between P. m. lodingi and P. m. mugitus have been collected in Baldwin County (Conant, 1956) and in Escambia County (AM-6351). A specimen collected by W. T. Neill from 12 miles south of Andalusia, and reported by Conant (op. cit.), was tentatively assigned intergradient status. It was for the most part, tan with a white belly. In Mississippi, it has either been found or is believed to occurr in Covington, Forrest, George, Greene, Harrison, Jackson, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Perry, Stone, and Wayne counties. In the Florida panhandle, it also intergrades west of the Escambia River (Escambia County).

Parts reference: The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama, Department of Zoology-Entomology, Agricultural Experiment Station/Auburn, Alabama  Printing 1975 

 

see: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-guide/Pituophismlodingi.htm   for the Florida range.

 

FIGURE 3

 http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Pituophis&species=melanoleucus&search_param=%28%28taxon%3D%27Colubridae%27%29%29

 

Also see BioOne Multiscale Habitat Selection by Black Pine Snakes 

http://www.cnah.org/pdf_files/1797.pdf  - mentions previous range of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida of along the Gulf Coast Plain.

P. m. lodingi once ranged from
western Florida to eastern Louisiana along the
Gulf Coast Plain, but is now thought to be
extirpated from Louisiana and is declining in
P. m. lodingi once ranged from
western Florida to eastern Louisiana along the
Gulf Coast Plain, but is now thought to be
extirpated from Louisiana and is declining  
melanoleucus lodingi) in Southern Mississippi
Author(s): Danna Baxley, Gregory J. Lipps, Jr., and Carl P. Qualls
Source: Herpetologica, 67(2):154-166. 2011.
Published By: The Herpetologists' League
DOI: 10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-10-00029.1
URL:
http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-10-00029.1

 


Black Pine Snake

Photo by Pat Briggs

 

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi (Washington Parish, Lousiana parents)

Photo by Pat briggs courtesy Mike and Isis Madec

Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi

Photo by Pat Briggs courtesy John Ginter

 

 

 

This huge Black Pine snake male enjoys his new 74 inch melamine and glass vivarium.

Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs June 2017

 

 

Dick Buchholz with a Kankakee County Bull Snake that he caught many years ago as a hatchling

in Illinois, and to the right is the Pituophis Man, Pat Briggs with a huge male Black Pine Snake.