Southern Ringneck Snake
Scientific name: Diadophis punctatus punctatus (LINNAEUS 1766)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Coluber punctatus – LINNAEUS 1766
- Natrix punctatus – MERREM 1820
- Homalosoma punctata – WAGLER 1830
- Calamaria punctata – SCHLEGEL 1837
- Ablabes punctatus – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
- Diadophis punctatus – DUMÉRIL, STEBBINS 1985
Description: Average adult size is 6-10 inches (15.2-25.4 cm), record is 18.9 inches (48 cm). Adults are small and slender-bodied with a black body and yellow, cream, or orange ring across the neck. The belly is bright yellow, orange, or red with a single row of half-moon spots down the center. The scales are smooth, and there are 15-17 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile color is similar to that of the adult.
A. Top of the head (notice the large plate-like scales on the top of the head)
B. Smooth scales
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
Range: It is found throughout Florida, including the Upper, Middle, and extreme Lower Florida Keys. Outside of Florida, it is found throughout the southeastern US from Alabama to southern New Jersey.
Habitat: Commonly found in meadows, prairies, pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and melaleuca stands.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous) and it rarely bites when handled. When startled or threatened, it may coil and raise the tail displaying its brightly-colored underside. It may emit a strong smelling musk from the glands just inside the cloaca.
The Southern Ringneck Snake is a terrestrial burrower, frequently found in or underneath logs or other debris. It feeds on small earthworms, slugs, frogs, anoles, geckos, skinks, snakes, and salamanders.
It lays eggs. During the summer usually 2-8 whitish eggs are laid in moist areas such as underneath or inside rotting logs. Sometimes a communal nest site may be used by several different females. Newborns are 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm).
Ringneck Snakes are the most frequently found snakes in Florida swimming pools — they crawl in to get a drink and then cannot climb out because they are too small to reach the lip of the pool. If you find one in your pool, lift it out with the leaf skimmer or a dipnet and turn it loose in the shrubs where it can get back to eating things you do not want in your garden.
Comparison with other species: The Key Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus acricus) has a slate gray colored body and an indistinct or missing neck ring. The Florida Brown Snake (Storeria victa) has a light colored stripe down its back, flecking on its sides, and a distinct brown spot under the eye.