Skip to Main Content

southern ring-necked snake

Fact File

Scientific Name: Diadophis punctatus punctatus

Classification: Reptilia, Order Squamata, Family Colubridae

Identifying Characteristics

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 intergradation is the triangle formed by the James River, the Fall Line, and the southern Virginia border. 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.

Last updated: August 18, 2023

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.