The Snakes have always been of more than casual interest to
the layman, and the extensive literature dealing with them
witnesses the more than ordinary appeal they have to the
professional naturalist. The United States is fortunate, compared
with Europe, in the richness of its snake fauna. Yet
until recently there has been no book to which the interested
amateur could turn with confidence for answers to his questions
as to identification, habits, or behavior. Very recently
there has been a burst of interest in handbooks of snakes,
and no fewer than two have appeared while the present
volume was in preparation. We believe, however, that our
book differs so greatly from those in scope or nature of
treatment, or both, that there is surprisingly little duplication. __________
In the past, study of American snakes has dealt chiefly with taxonomic problems. We believe that as purely taxonomic problems become less productive, interest will gradually shift to topics of broader biological interest. With this in mind, we have placed particular emphasis on life history, habits, behavior, and ecology. Description has been restricted to what is necessary for identification of specimens.
This book is quite naturally largely a compilation from the hundreds of individual studies and notes of observations that have been published by those interested in snakes. It rests on an extensive card index of this literature, which is widely scattered through technical journals and scientific publications of institutions and learned societies.
Inclusion of references to authorities for all statements would have made the text cumbersome and unreadable, but nearly every statement of fact is based on careful consideration of all that is known on that topic. References have been included where it seemed desirable, and these are supplemented by complete citations to important or comprehensive papers, which will serve to introduce the serious student to the technical literature.
The fourth (1939) edition of Stejneger and Barbour’s Check List of] North American Amphibians and Reptiles has been followed in matters of arrangement and nomenclature, except that the Lower California forms have been omitted. The few deviations from the check list are usually explained in footnotes. Twelve forms described since the appearance of the check list have been included. These are: Leptotyphlops humilis utahensis Tanner (1938), Leptotyphlops humilis segregus Klauber (1939), Opheodrys vernalis blanchardi Grobman (1941), Salvadora lineata Schmidt (1940), S. hexalepis deserticola Schmidt (1940), Coluber constrictor priapus Dunn and Wood (1939), Phyllorhynchus decurtatus nubilis Klauber (1940), P. browni lucidus Klauber (1940), Elaphe ivilliamsi Barbour and Carr (1940), Elaphe vulpina gloydi Conant (1940), Thamnophis ordinoides gigas Fitch (1940), and Natrix harteri Trapido (1941). Unfortunately there is no “check list” of common names of snakes, and these names, which are likely to be most used by the amateur, have presented the usual difficulties. Our policy has been to use names that have become established through usage wherever possible, even when they are somewhat inappropriate or misleading. Thus some may object to our use of “worm snakes” for Carphophis instead of for Leptotyphlops, or to the term “milk snake,” but experience has shown that “book names” seldom gain wide acceptance.
We consider ourselves fortunate in having secured the services of Mr. Albert A. Enzenbacher, of Chicago, as artist.
Snakes are notoriously difficult to draw and paint convincingly, and we believe that Mr. Enzenbacher’s work is an outstanding contribution to the illustration of these creatures.
Miss Elizabeth Story has contributed a number of drawings, especially to illustrate technical details, and her aid has been invaluable in lettering and preparing the illustrations for the press.
The photographs (by the junior author, except where otherwise credited) were made on a ground-glass background in order to eliminate anything that would obscure the outlines or pattern of the snake. A 4 x 5 Graflex with an f 6.3 Bausch and Lomb Protar lens was used for all but a few. In most cases where it was desirable to show the belly pattern the snake was lightly anesthetized. Mrs. Dorothy Foss has been helpful on many Saturday afternoons in the course of the photographic work.
Many persons have aided in the preparation of this book, and we take this opportunity to thank them. Our museum associates have been helpful, and the Chicago Natural History Museum collections and library have been drawn upon constantly. We are particularly obliged to the Chicago Zoological Society; to Mr. C. B. Perkins of the Zoological Society of San Diego; to Dr. H. K. Gloyd of the Chicago Academy of Sciences; to Mr. Ross Allen of Ocala, Florida; to Dr. C. S. Smith of San Marcos State Teachers College; to Dr. Leo T. Murray of Baylor University; to Mr. J. E. Johnson, of Waco, Texas; and to Mr. C. M. Barber, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for gifts or loans of living snakes for photographing. Dr. Gloyd has also kindly supplied photographs from his albums, and we have consulted him on‘various topics in the course of the work. Mr. L. M. Klauber of the Zoological Society of San Diego generously supplied the photographs credited to him, and Mr. Charles T. Vorhies of the University of Arizona supplied the specimen of the rare Oxybelis microphthalmus from which the drawings were made.
of the United States and Canada