Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)

Description: Small snake, dark above with bright yellow to red ring around neck and yellow to red belly.

Habitat: Rocky hillsides in open woodlands to dry prairies.

Diet: Earthworms mostly but also takes insects and tiny amphibians or reptiles.

Size: Typical adult length: 25-38 cm (10-15 in); Maximum 15.5 inches (Collins & Collins 1993).

Natural History: This small snake normally remains hidden during the day and emerges to hunt at night. Often found under rocks, logs or boards in spring and early summer (April to June), but as summer heats up and the soil dries out, this snake can be hard to find. Ringnecks are spotty in distribution, in one area they may reach 300 individuals per acre but in another, apparently suitable habitat, they can be uncommon.

When startled a ringneck often coils its tail and exposes its bright underside (see picture). If the attack is pressed it can excrete stinky stuff from the 'rear end'. At other times a ringneck may simply play dead when attacked.

Two herpetologists (Rossi and Rossi) noticed a very strange behavior from a Ringneck Snake. They watched as a much larger snake attacked and swallowed a ringneck. The ringneck was swallowed tail first. At the last second, just as the ringneck's head disappeared down the larger snakes mouth, it bit and held on to the inside of the larger snake's mouth. A nasty surprise, the larger snake was now stuck. After sixteen hours the larger snake died and the ringneck crawled out and went on its way.

Although not dangerous to humans, the Ringneck Snake may be mildly poisonous! They tend to strike and hold on to tiny vertebrate prey. After an hour or two the prey is dead or paralyzed. This has led scientists to speculate that the saliva of the ringneck may be toxic.

Similar species:

  1. Our only other snake with a ringed neck is a juvenile Brown Snake. Note that Brown Snakes have keeled not smooth scales.