Florida Pinesnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus) are perhaps one of the most pleasurable snakes to encounter in the field in Florida. They combine beautiful patterning with intimidating demeanor. These are one of the few snakes in the world that audibly and consistently let off a loud hiss when disturbed. They are extremely rare in Florida anywhere south of Lake Okeechobee, though a little north can still be potentially turned up in Highlands and Okeechobee county; and I’ve heard from others that they get a little bit easier to come across farther north in the peninsula. I’ve encountered three of these animals to date; all juveniles from Okeechobee county.
Their ‘rarity’ is likely due to a synergy of things: their mostly fossorial (underground) existence, limited availability of their favorite food source – the Southeastern Pocket Gopher (Geomys pinetis) and also because of their “no backing down” demeanor, which often lands them at the sharp end of a shovel and a gun – a friend of mine found a five footer earlier last year with a bullet hole through his head. Here is an individual found by group effort in Okeechobee county. I was in the other car that evening, but herping is a group effort: