Diadophis punctatus
(Ringneck Snake)

Key Characteristics
Smooth scales
Solid gray dorsal coloration
Vivid yellow, orange and/or red coloration ventrally
(often forming a ring on the neck)
Round pupils

General Description:
Ringneck Snakes are easy to identify because of their vivid ventral coloration, which often starts as yellow anteriorly and grades to red posteriorly.   The bright ventral color is marked by numerous black spots, hence the specific epithet punctatus, which means punctured or perforated. The common name refers to the yellow ventral coloration that extends up around the neck forming a ring.  However, in southeastern Idaho, you can encounter individuals that lack the neck ring.  The yellow ventral coloration also extends up from the chin, onto the labial (lip) scales.  The dorsal coloration of these snakes is much more subdued, being a slate gray that can vary in darkness among individuals.   Ringneck Snakes have smooth scales, and round pupils, but these characteristics probably won't have to be referred to when identifying these snakes.

Ringneck Snakes are relatively small snakes, typically reaching sizes of about 50 cm (20 in.), but they can attain sizes of up to 75 cm (30 in.) (Storm and Leonard 1995).

Ringneck Snakes mate in spring, lay a clutch that ranges from 1 to 10 eggs (with usual numbers being 3 or 4), and these eggs then hatch in late summer (Storm and Leonard 1995).  The young resemble the adults, but the gray dorsal coloration is often quite dark (almost black) (Storm and Leonard 1995).

Ringneck Snakes can be found in forested, brushy areas or open hillsides that have rocks or other debris for them to hide in and they may use microhabitats that are moist (Storm and Leonard 1995).

Idaho Distribution:
In Idaho, Ringneck Snakes can be found in disjunct areas over much of the state.  From Pacific to Atlantic coasts, and from Nova Scotia, Minnesota, Colorado, Idaho, and Washington, south across U.S. to Florida Keys and northern Baja California. Distribution is spotty in western states.

Eats earthworms, slugs, other small invertebrates, and small salamanders, frogs, lizards, and snakes.

NocturnalClick word for definition. HibernatesClick word for definition/aestivatesClick word for definition. Inactive in winter in most areas. In Idaho, probably departs den in May, and returns in September or October. Secretive; hides underground, in logs, or under surface cover during day. Kansas study estimated population density at 700-1800/ha; distances between recaptures averaged 80 m (range 0-1700 m), and home range had maximum dimension of about 140 m. Communal nesting is common. Species is thought to be venomous, but not harmful to man. Although few records exist for Idaho, species is probably more common than it appears.

Lays clutch of 1-18 eggs, usually in June or July (in the Northwest, female deposits about 3 eggs annually in July, in stabilized talus or rotting log). Female in southern range may possibly lay 2 clutches. Eggs hatch in about 8 wk. Adults reach sexual maturity in 2-3 yr.



Unprotected nongame species

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Species description, key characteristics and original work by John Cossel Jr. © 1997
Original images provided by Charles R. Peterson © 1997
Design and Optimization by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.