A very common, but seldom seen, snake found in our region is the ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus). This small, shy snake is mostly active during the night, and prefers to hide under rocks, logs, and other debris. This diminutive snake reaches a length of about 10 inches at adulthood, and typically has a slate grey/blue color with a very distinct orange to yellow ring around its neck. Ring-necked snakes are found throughout North America, and occupy many different habitats and communities. In fact, ring-necked snakes have the widest distribution of any snake in North America. There are nearly 40 subspecies of this snake that come in a variety of colors; the defining trait being the band around its neck. The ring-necked prefers damp, wooded areas, especially those that are bordered by streams.
Ring-necked snakes raise their tail like a corkscrew when they are threatened. While it does not have a true venom gland like the rattlesnake or copperhead, it has a similar structure known as the Duvcrnoy’s Gland located behind the eye that produces a small amount of venom. This venom is used to subdue prey during feeding. The small rear-set fangs and minute venom make the ring-necked snake no threat to humans.
These snakes eat insects, slugs, earthworms, salamanders, and frogs. They are preyed upon by skunks, raccoons, fox, and bear. Populations of ring-necked snake are generally very robust, and a population survey taken in a Georgia woodland area estimated that there were nearly 700 – 1,800 individuals present per hectare. The ring-necked snake’s position in the food web is believed to be an intermediate role, consuming a lot of insects and providing food for a number larger animals.
Article by Mike Kay, FCFCDB member