Peninsula Ribbon Snake


Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Thamnophis sauritus sackenii

Scientific name: Thamnophis sauritus sackenii (KENNICOTT 1859)
* Currently accepted name

* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber saurita – LINNAEUS 1766
  • Natrix saurita – MERREM 1820
  • Tropidonotus saurita – BOIE 1827
  • Leptophis sauritus – HOLBROOK 1842
  • Thamnophis saurita – FITZINGER 1843
  • Eutainia saurita – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Eutaenia sackenii – KENNICOTT 1859
  • Prymnomoidon chalceus – COPE 1860
  • Eutaenia sackeni – DAVIS & RICE 1883
  • Thamnophis sackenii – LOENNBERG 1894
  • Thamnophis sackeni – DECKERT 1918
  • Thamnophis sirtalis – KLAUBER 1948
  • Thamnophis sauritus sackeni – CONANT 1958
  • Thamnophis sauritus sackenii – ROSSMAN 1963

Description: Average adult size is 20-28 inches (50.8-71.1 cm), record is 40 inches (101.6 cm). Adults are slender-bodied, olive-brown with a light tannish-brown mid-dorsal stripe. There is an additional light whitish-green stripe on each side of the body occupying the 3rd and 4th dorsal scale rows above the belly. There are light whitish fleckings on each side between the mid-dorsal and lateral stripes. There is a distinct white spot in front of the eye. The belly is uniform yellowish-green. A complete tail is up to one-third of the total body length. The scales are keeled, and there are 19 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juveniles are similar to adults.

Thamnophissauritus illustration

A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Keeled scales
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head

Range: In Florida, the Peninsula Ribbon Snake occurs from the eastern panhandle south into the Florida Keys, excluding along the Gulf coast from eastern Wakulla County south to Hernando County. It occurs in the Upper Florida Keys, and the population in the Lower Florida Keys is listed as Threatened due to habitat loss. Outside of Florida, it is found north to southern South Carolina.

Habitat: Commonly found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, streams, ponds, bogs, and stands of melaleuca.

Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Thamnophis sauritus sackenii

Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Peninsula Ribbon Snake is semiaquatic and active during the day. It is frequently found along the banks of canals and ditches, and around houses in residential areas. After heavy rains, it is sometimes found at night crossing roads in search of food. It feeds on small fishes, frogs, salamanders, and earthworms. It is live-bearing. Breeding occurs from April-June, up to 20 newborns are deposited from July–September.

Comparison with other species: The Bluestripe Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus nitae) has light blue stripes on its sides occupying the 2nd and 3rd dorsal scale rows above the belly. The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is thicker-bodied and has black-outlined scales on the upper lip.

Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Thamnophis sauritus sackenii