Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Family Colubridae

Northern Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis punctatus edwardsii

and

Southern Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis p. punctatus

and

Intergrade
Diadophis p. punctatus X edwardsi

 

Photo of Northern Ring-necked Snake courtesy of Linh Phu
Photo of Northern Ring-necked Snake courtesy of Linh Phu

Photo of Southern Ring-necked Snake courtesy of Matt Close
Photo of Southern Ring-necked Snake courtesy of Matt Close

Size

10 - 15 inches. Record - 27 inches.

Appearance

  • Our ring-necked snake includes the Northern Ring-necked, Southern Ring-necked, and on the lower Eastern Shore, an intergrade between the two species.

  • A plain slender snake with a cream-to-yellow neck collar and yellow belly, which may grade to red towards the tail (Southern).

  • The back is a uniform dark gray, bluish black or brown.

  • Northern: complete neck ring, and belly has no or small black spots down the midline.

  • Southern: broken or notched neck ring behind head, and belly has large, black half-moon shaped spots down the midline.

  • Intergrade: ours typically has a broken neck ring similar to the Southern Ring-necked, however it has an unmarked belly or with only a few black spots, similar to the Northern Ring-necked. Some individuals have been reported with a complete neck ring (Northern), but having a belly with a central row of black half-moons (Southern).

  • Scales not keeled.

  • Illustrations showing detail of neck ring and dots on belly of Northern vs Southern Ring-necked Snakes

    Habitats

    Primarily found in hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests, but will also occur in agricultural lands next to woodlots and backyards. Usually found associated with moisture.

    How to Find

    A secretive nocturnal species. Look under coarse woody debris and junk piles and within rotting logs in moist (mesic) woodlands. Young are often discovered in residences after first cold snap
    of late Summer/early Fall. Will not bite when handled but may discharge foul-smelling feces and musk. Non-venomous.

    Distribution in Maryland

    The Northern Ring-necked Snake is found west of the Chesapeake Bay.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Northern Ring-necked Snake

    The Southern Ring-necked Snake and the intergrade are found on the Eastern Shore.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Southern Ring-necked Snake

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    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.