Skip to main content

Ring-necked Snake, a harmless charmer

In a recent post, I included this photo and made mention of a cool reptile that was on that flat rock and that had captured the attention of the assembled throng. I also said that I'd be back later to highlight the animal, and give it some air time on the vast World Wide Web. So here we go...

A gorgeous animal by any possible criteria, this Northern Ring-necked Snake, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii, is what had us so enthralled. From the outset of this August 18 trip to the wilds of southern Ohio, I had been exhorting my expedition comrades to "find a ring-neck, find a ring-neck, find a ring-neck". We had three topnotch snakers along: John and Vince Howard, and David Hughes. I am NOT much of a snake-finder. I really like them, but get too fixated on other pursuits while afield to devote much time or energy to turning rocks and logs, and doing what is required to produce snakes.

Anyway, the three aforementioned snakists spent a fair bit of time flipping objects, and one of them (can't remember who) eventually produced this beauty, which was carefully placed on this rocky runway for a modeling/photography session.

If I had to pick a favorite snake, it would be the Ring-necked Snake. What's not to like here? Ring-necks are stunning little animals, and a wonderful entree into the world of snakes. They are small - a whopper only reaches a bit more than a foot in length - and exceedingly gentle. I've never had one attempt to bite, nor have I heard of that happening. Even if a ring-neck snapped someone's finger, its mouth is so small it couldn't do anything. Thus, the ring-neck is a wonderful animal to introduce to someone with a fear of reptiles, or who has had little experience with snakes.

The colors and patterning of the Ring-necked Snake are striking indeed. The dorsal, or upper, surface is plated in a dark steely blue-black, and the ventral (lower) side of the animal is a beautifully contrasting golden-orange. The effect is quite striking - no pun intended - and is augmented by the pale yellow neck collar.

Ring-necked Snakes are common in parts of southern and eastern Ohio, where they inhabit rocky streams such as where this one was found, moist forested slopes, regenerating clearcuts and other such wooded habitats. They're a bit of work to find, though. Occasionally I just stumble into one that is out and about, but apparently ring-necks are primarily nocturnal. Hence the need to go poking under hiding spots in good habitat to find one.

We noticed that this specimen had a hitchhiker. The orangish object on the snake's neck collar is a mite. Snakes can become afflicted with parasitic mites, which apparently can become a real problem with captive animals. In the wild, mites are probably not so much of an issue for the animals. I know very little about mites, especially those that parasitize snakes, but I don't think this mite is the same species that plagues captive animals. For all I know, it is just using the snake to ride to a new locale - mites often hitchhike on animal taxicabs. Anyway, it made this snake experience all the more interesting. Perhaps one of the herpetologists out there can shed some light on this.

I'm sure that I'm preaching to the choir here, but I want to reinforce that snakes are beneficial and should be protected at all costs, whether relatively "cute" species such as this Ring-necked Snake, or less enchanting behemoths such as Black Rat Snakes. If you don't like them, let them be and they'll do the same. If a snake is somewhere you'd rather it wasn't, such as an Eastern Garter Snake in the garden or an Eastern Milk Snake in the shed, please just relocate it to somewhere else. Or have someone move it for you. I get a disconcerting number of photos sent to me each year from people wanting to know the identification of a snake, often thinking it might be a venomous species. They're invariably harmless species, but what bothers me is how many of the snakes in these photos are dead - slaughtered by the blade of a shovel. The ignorant killing of snakes absolutely disgusts me, and it is almost never, if ever, neccesary to slay them.

If everyone had firsthand exposure to a gentle Ring-necked Snake, and could see up close and personal just how cool snakes are, I'm sure our tubular reptiles would have many more fans.


Andy Avram said…
Down in the southern parts of Ohio these are extremely common little snakes, but up in the northeas corner of Ohio, where I live, they are harder to come by. Usually being found pocketed in little colonies. I have a couple of sure-fire spots to see them, but usually when they turn up it is cause for excitment. They also have the SMELLIEST musk known to snakes this side of a Black Rat Snake. And I have had a few try and bite, but they are too small cause any wounds.
Jim McCormac said…
Thanks for your comment Andy. I must be fortunate or a ring-neck charmer- never had one unleash the musk on me, the one in the blog post included.
jaredmizanin said…
I found them to be common in the Appalachians, but in northeast Ohio I personally only have a couple spots in Cuyahoga and Summit that produce them. I as well have had them bite, but never initially. I just handled them a bit too long for their comfort. As Andy said, no need to fear their bite as it is completely painless. I've never seen them out west, where they have some STUNNING subspecies which grow much larger (and may possibly be split, from what I am to understand).
We have found several of these over the years inside our home in Flanders, NJ. We even found a very small one crawling inside our kitchen light once and one of them up in our child's room which is 2 1/2 stories above the ground. We usually find them in our basement however and my wife is deathly afraid of snakes. Even the Northern Ring-necked Snake which probably wouldn't harm a flea.
Donny Smith said…
would it be common to find one in my swimming pool in south Alabama near the Florida line?
Unknown said…
I have seen what I think is a ring neck twice once in Avon, oh area and more recently in Greenwich ,oh but both of the ones I have came across had more of a grey color and pink or maybe orangeish color ring around the neck both were around 3" as well so maybe young or hatchlings that have not developed there color quite yet. Or maybe not the same if I can find another as I seen it just in my back yard but he got away from me as I almost stepped on it before I seen it I will post a picture
Tina Nunley said…
Hi, I just found one of these snakes yesterday,it's the frist time I ever seen one, I thought it was a work cause it was so small then I notice the ring around his neck at closer look realize it was a snake, am scared of snake but because this was so tiny I wasn't afraid, it was under my coon dog water bowl so I gently scoped it up an put it n abowl an took it to the fench line an let it go, just wanted to comment to let ya know that it was a surprise to find out what kind it was ,
James Carrera said…
Found a baby in Davie Florida very Striking in color bright orange and black very nice gentle can i keep it or should i release her back to the wild what a beauty

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…