Monday, June 29, 2009
Tiny Snake- Big Attitude
Ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus) are one of my favorite snakes. They are tiny, harmless and great at insect/ worm control. Growing to about 14 to 15 inches in length they are one of the smallest snakes in Missouri. There are many species of Ringneck snakes throughout much of the United States, and they are probably more widespread than any other species of snake. They are dark gray, black or even tan in coloration with a bright yellow-orange belly and ring around their neck; as their name indicates. Two subspecies exist in Missouri, one is the Prairie Ringneck Snake (punctatus arnyi (pictured here). The second subspecies is the Mississippi Ringneck (Diadophis punctatus stictogenys) The Prairie species will be found throughout Missouri; the Mississippi species is found in the Southeast portion of Missouri. They can be found in most any habitat, but seem to prefer prairie habitats or wooded areas, that contains rocks, wood or logs for them to hide under. They are a secretive species of snake and will hide at the first opportunity if they sense danger nearby. While secretive by nature they are commonly seen crossing roadways, typically at night. Their diminutive size makes them an easy target for would be predators, but they are not without their own set of defenses. Notice in the last photo how the snake is curling his tail showing the bright orange coloration. This is a form of distraction to predators, it is used as a lure so that the tail gets attacked and not the head giving them a chance (even if slight) at survival. Their number one predator is the Yellow-Bellied Racer or Blue Racer as it is often called. They are not prone to bite, but even if they did, because of their small stature they would be unable to inflict any pain. Breeding take place in the spring or fall. The females who are bred in the spring will lay eggs in July or August. The females who are bred in the fall can delay fertilization, and will lay eggs the following spring or early summer. The tiny offspring look identical to the adults. They are around 3 to 4 inches long when born. From birth they are on their own, and it is a perilous time for these babies and they face many predators.