Where the mud snake is more or less common in the south, they live in cypress swamps, marshes and roadside ditches. While they live in or near water, they usually are found burrowed in the mud; thus the name mud snake. They do, however, like to come out during rainy nights and this is when they are most often observed. Several are killed each year on southern highways.
In the south the mud snake feeds upon large eel-like salamanders that are usually not native to Indiana. This may be one reason they were never very common in Indiana. They do, however, feed upon fish, smaller salamanders and tadpoles.
Something very unusual about the mud snake is it is the only North American snake that takes the time to brood its eggs.
While it is not an aggressive snake, the mud snake does have a sharp spine at the tip of its tail. While not poisonous, when this spine comes in contact with the skin of a human it may feel like a sting. This has caused a lot of misinformation to become a part of folklore. While not a venomous snake, in some rural areas of the south it is called the stinging snake and is said to sting with its tail, and is a very deadly reptile to be given a wide berth.
Another legend states it can take its tail in its mouth and forms a hoop, then roll up to sting a person. Thus hoop snake is another name give to this most innocuous snake.
Hoop snakes are also part of our Hoosier lore and a past column on hoop snakes produced a lot of interest and response. I wish we still had the mud snake in Indiana and I hope in some swamp in southwestern Indiana a few may still survive.