While snakes may not be a lot of people’s favorite animal, we do or did have some very interesting snakes in Indiana. One we did have, but apparently no longer lives in our state, is the western mud snake. This is a very attractive reptile that is not at all the color of mud. It is blue-black above with a red belly that is very bright and quite eye-catching. The red also extends along the sides of the snake. The mud snake can be up to six feet in length, and the sight of a reptile this size with a bright red belly and sides can be quite startling.
Never common in Indiana, the mud snake was only found in a few swamps in extreme southwestern Indiana. They like cypress swamps, and few of these most interesting swamps are left in Hoosierland. While there are still cypress swamps in Posey, Vanderburgh and Knox counties, most of our cypress stands have been cut over and drained.
Knox County is a classic example. There were once an estimated 20,000 acres of cypress swamps in Knox. Today only a few traces of these still remain. Extensive swamps once could be found in the area where the White River has its confluence with the Wabash River.
Another very large area of swamps once was located south of today’s U.S. 50 near Wheatland. This site is long gone as it was drained many years ago. You can see the drainage ditch as you travel along U.S. 50 west of Wheatland. This huge swamp was known as Montour’s swamp or pond, and was a very wild location where several animals no longer found in Indiana made their last stand.
The mud snake is a southern snake and ranges from the Gulf Coast north to Missouri, southern Illinois, and once, Indiana. It is now listed as extirpated in Hoosierland. The only two specimens of mud snakes in collections from Indiana are listed as taken from Montour’s pond near Wheatland.