|REPTILES OF THE METRO AREA
Northern Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
This is a very common non-venomous snake. Ringnecks are small, delicate looking snakes. The
snake's back is a velvety black with a yellow ring around the neck. The underside is yellow with a row
of black dots down the center. An adult might reach a foot or so in length.
Ringneck snakes are pretty secretive. Usually they are found under or inside logs and stumps,
rocks, bark, or sheet metal. These snakes prefer forested areas rather than open fields. They eat
small salamanders and earthworms. They almost never try to bite when handled, and the small teeth
are not likely to puncture the skin.
This snake pictured below was found in my backyard in Owings Mills, Maryland.
Although Ringneck Snakes are usually found under objects such as rocks, logs, bark, or sheet metal, I
occasionally find them out foraging, usually on or near stone walls and occasionally I have found them warming
themselves on blacktop roads on summer nights.
The greatest threat to snakes and most other wildlife is habitat destruction. In the past, killing of snakes by
misinformed people was a big problem. Today many people tolerate snakes, even enjoy seeing them or catching
them alive. As the number of collectors and wildlife enthusiasts increases and the amount of habitat decreases, well
meaning collectors and wildlife lovers may be the second greatest threat to our native reptiles and amphibians. It has
become more and more important for us to be conscious of our impact on wildlife, and to minimize our impact by
watching from a respectful distance when possible. Handling, disturbing, and capturing wildlife should be avoided or
done responsibly if you feel you must get a close inspection.
I have found that many snakes, and other animals as well, can be observed in the same place day after day, even
year after year. Snakes will often bask in the same spot or rest in the same crevasse where they can be observed for
a summer or even several summers in a row. A very patient observer might even be able to watch from a distance as
snakes move to and from their roost and as they hunt for food, watch their behavior change through the molting
cycle, and get some insight into the daily life and behavior of these fascinating creatures. Since snakes are cold
blooded and have a slow metabolism, they do not need to eat as frequently as birds or mammals. Snakes are often
content to stay in one place for long periods, so it can take a lot of time to see any activity. Catching a snake even
one time will often cause it to move and find a new location, so by catching and releasing a snake you might lose the
opportunity to observe the animal in the future. A disturbed animal might have to look for a new home, basking site,
or hunting spot, exposing itself to predators as it seeks out a new location.
Ringneck Snakes can be kept in captivity for short periods of time on a diet of earthworms or salamanders. Snakes
should not be exposed to any exotic pets if they are to be released into the wild again. Diseases carried by exotic pets
might be unfamiliar to native reptiles and could wreak havoc on wild populations.
Although these snakes are common in the Baltimore-Washington area, habitat destruction is reducing the available
habitat for them. Additional pressure on wild populations may come from pesticides and other chemical contamination.
Research suggests that many reptiles, amphibians, fish, and other wildlife are affected by estrogenic, carcinogenic, and
teratogenic effects of chemicals that are being released in increasing amounts into their environment.
The underside of a Ringneck Snake