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common ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This is a very slender snake with a tail that makes up more than one-fourth of the total length. The adult has a dorsal pattern of three bright yellow stripes on a dark background. The belly is plain yellow or greenish-yellow. This species is about 7 inches at birth and grows to about 36 inches. Juveniles are patterned as adults but are brown with bright yellow or white stripes. The brown dorsal color darkens with age. The female gives birth to as many as 20 live young in mid to late summer.

Distribution

This snake is found from the Blue Ridge Mountains and parts of the Valley and Ridge physiographic region east to, and including, the Eastern Shore. Thamnophis sauritus is semiaquatic, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats, including freshwater and brackish marshes, grassy floodplains, streams, and ditches with grass and brush margins, wet areas in meadows, spagnum bogs, and woodlands adjacent to wetlands. The primary requirement appears to be accessibility to permanent or semipermanent water. It prefers areas that are well vegetated with cattails, grasses, shrubs, and other plant life that offer good traction for quick escapes. This snake is frequently found basking on branches of trees, bushes, or grasses overhanging the water.

Foods

This snake eats frogs, salamanders, toads, small fish and leeches. Most predation occurs at night and prey are swallowed alive.

More Information

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