Virginia.gov

northern red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

The adult is usually brown above but may vary from gray to nearly black, with four indistinct dark stripes and/ or a broad light stripe on the back. The belly is usually bright red with no markings. There are three pale spots on the neck which may connect to form a collar. The juvenile is similar to the adult. They are about 3 inches at birth and grow to a maximum of 16 inches. The female bears up to 21 live young during July or August. This snake will not bite when handled, but may emit musk from glands at the base of the tail, curl the upper lips exposing the black mouth, and may even play dead. Redbellied snakes are secretive, nocturnal, and terrestrial.

Distribution

This species apparently occurs throughout Virginia, with the exception of the barrier islands, despite the lack of verified observations in some areas. This species is found in wooded areas, particularly where there are rocks, logs, or other cover. Habitats may be moist or dry, ranging from the edges of swamps and bogs to well drained, rocky hilltops. The debris around old barns and abandoned houses often support colonies of this little snake. They can be found under all manner of surface objects, such as rocks, logs, boards, debris, bark, and leaves. These snakes overwinter in anthills, in unused rodent burrows, and in soil containing crevices and passageways.

Foods

This snake eats insects, earthworms, slugs and occasionally, tiny frogs.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).