southern ring-necked snake

(Diadophis punctatus punctatus)


The adult is gray to bluish-black above with a flat, black head. The neck ring and ventral color varies from yellowish to reddish and the neck ring is usually incomplete. The belly has a row of dark, half-moon-shaped spots running along its length. This species and the northern ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii, interbreed in parts of eastern Virginia, and these subspecies may differ in size and numbers of scales. The size ranges from 4 inches at birth to 10-14 inches (25.4-36 cm) in adulthood. It lays 2-10 whitish eggs, usually in rotting logs, in June or early July. The young hatch in early summer. Several clutches of eggs may be laid together in a communal nest. As a defensive action, this species may twist and raise its tail when approached by certain predators. Ringneck snakes do not bite when caught but will release foul-smelling feces and musk from the anal glands.


This subspecies is generally limited to the southeastern coastal plain. The coastal plain north of the James River shows intergrades of this subspecies and the northern ringneck. The zone of integradation is the triangle formed by the James River, the Fall Line, and the southern Virginia borther. This snake prefers moist hardwood forest where there is an abundance of rotting logs, old stumps, and loose bark to use for hiding. It is also found in cutover lands, sawdust piles, field edges, and suburban backyards. Ringneck snakes are secretive, inhabiting the leaf litter and upper soil horizon. They are seldom encountered in the open.


This species feeds on insects, earthworms, small snakes, small lizards, salamanders and frogs. Three prey types form the majority of the diet of this snake: earthworms, salamanders, and lizards.