Other common names
Most adult Red-bellied Snakes are about 8-10 inches (20-26 cm) in total length. These snakes are small and thin, and their background color is gray to reddish brown with 1-5 stripes down the back. The head is black or dark brown, and there is a light collar around the neck. The belly is normally bright red. Juveniles are darker than adults and have a whitish band across back of the head.
Range in Florida
Red-bellied Snakes are found throughout the northern peninsula south to Pasco and Orange counties, and they occur west throughout the Panhandle.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Red-bellied Snakes are not dangerous to people or pets.
Comparison with other species
Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctata) Non-venomous
Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula) Non-venomous
Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) Non-venomous
Florida Brownsnake (Storeria victa) Non-venomous
Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae) Non-venomous
Adult Red-bellied Snakes in Florida are about 8-10 inches (20-26 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 16.6 inches (42.2 cm). These snakes are small and thin, and their background color is gray to reddish brown. Faint striping down the back varies from one broad stripe, to four narrow stripes, to a combination of both patterns resulting in five stripes. Three light spots on the back of neck fuse together to form a light collar. The head is black or dark brown, and there is a small white spot under the eye on the upper lip scales. The belly is normally bright red, but it may also be orange, yellow, or bluish gray. The scales on the back are keeled (each scale has a prominent raised ridge) and arranged in 15 scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juveniles are darker than adults and have a whitish band across back of the head.
Red-bellied Snakes are commonly found in most terrestrial and wetland habitats throughout their range. However, these secretive snakes often remain hidden beneath leaflitter, logs, rocks, or other surface cover. Adults and juveniles of this species are often found in suburban neighborhoods where development encroaches into favorable habitats.
These inoffensive snakes do not bite in defense. If captured or molested, Red-bellied Snakes will often squirm vigorously, flatten their heads and bodies, and release foul-smelling musk from two glands in the base of the tail. If further agitated, they will occasionally curl their upper lip scales upwards to expose the upper teeth.
Red-bellied Snakes are typically active at night, and they feed primarily on slugs and earthworms. However, they will occasionally eat snails and insect larvae. The feeding behavior for this species has not been described, but prey are presumably swallowed alive.
In Florida, females give live birth to around 2-6 young in early summer. The newborns are tiny and only measure about 2.5-4 in (6.5-10 cm) in total length.
Red-bellied Snakes can be locally abundant in parts of their range, including in residential areas. However, these small and secretive snakes are rarely seen unless they are disturbed from their hiding places during yardwork or heavy rains. Otherwise, they are typically found by actively searching for them under rocks, logs, or other surface cover.
County data coming soon.
If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.
Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.
Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, and P.E. Moler. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 706 pp.
Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins. 2016. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston and New York. xiv + 494 pp.
Share your observations
You can help scientists better understand the biology and distribution of this species by sharing your observations. Send photos or videos of interesting observations, along with associated information, by emailing the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum for documentation in the Museum’s Herpetology Master Database. You can also post your observations on iNaturalist.
Additional helpful information
Do you have snakes around your house? Learn how to safely co-exist with snakes.
Still have questions about snakes or identifications? Feel free to email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum with your questions or feedback on this profile.