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Friday, June 12, 2015

Ring-necked Snake In The Garden

Look what we found while repainting the fence: a ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus).


This colubrid snake is easily identifiable by its drab coloring along the back, reddish-pink ring around the neck and brightly colored belly. I've seen ring-necked snakes in the yard before, but we unearthed this one while we were digging out some gravel under the fence line.

Ring-necked snakes are common, typically small, and found across North America. In the west they have bright red underbellies. When threatened, they turn upside down, coil up their tail like a small snake, and flash their bright coloring to warn off a typically bird predator. (Watch how this little guy coiled up the tip of his tail.) Many birds avoid brightly colored snakes, because some, like coral snakes, are dangerously venomous.

western fence lizard
Ring-necked snakes prey on tiny lizard eggs, some amphibians, and small lizards. Our yard has both slender salamanders and a variety of lizards. Habitat needs predators to maintain natural balance. As we replace our landscaping with native plants, we are recreating habitat for native insects (Valley carpenter bees, gray bird grasshopper, red jumping spider), birds (Bewick's wrens), and reptiles. 

To catch its lizard prey, the ring-necked snake does have venom delivered through fangs at the back of the mouth. The mouth is tiny and the teeth are not dangerous to humans. Many snakes long considered not dangerous to people, like garter snakes, need venom to subdue their prey. These common colubrid snakes have long thin, fast moving bodies and are important predators. Treated respectfully and with a gentle hand, we relocated this snake so we could finish working on the fence. Definitely an Earth Minute!

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