northern ring-necked snake

(Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)


The adult is gray to bluish black above with a flat black head. The neck ring and ventral color varies from yellowish to reddish. The neck ring may be incomplete. The belly is unmarked or has a row of dark, half-moon-shaped spots along its length. The juvenile has a velvety black dorsum and an even blacker head. Most adults are from 10-15 inches (25.4-38 cm) long. This species lays from 2-10 whitish eggs in rotting logs in June or early July. Several clusters may be laid together in a communal nest. The 3 1/2- to 5- inch young hatch in late summer. This species will twist and raise its tail like a corkscrew when approached by certain predators.


This species is found statewide in Virginia with the exception of the lower portion of the Eastern Shore although not all counties are represented by specimens. It inhabits moist wooded areas in both pine and hardwood, where there is an abundance of rotting logs, old stumps, and loose bark to provide hiding places. It is also found in cutover lands, sawdust piles, field edges and even suburban backyards. This is the most common snake in the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Dismal Swamp. The ringneck snake is secretive, inhabiting the leaf litter and upper soil horizon community. It is seldom encountered in the open.


This species feeds on insects, earthworms, small snakes, small lizards, salamanders and frogs. It usually swallows its prey whole, but may also use partial constriction.