Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Family Colubridae

Northern Red-bellied Snake
Storeria o. occipitomaculata

Northern Red-bellied Snake Adult Photo by Mark Tegges
Photo of Adult Northern Red-bellied Snake courtesy of Mark Tegges


8 - 10 inches. Record - 16 inches.


  • Two diagnostic features
         1) a red unmarked belly (rarely yellow or dark grey) and
         2) three cream to orange spots on the neck.

  • There is usually some black pigment on the sides and back of the head.

  • The back is a usually light brown but may be dark gray or black, and there is often a hint of two or four thin black stripes the length of the body.

  • Keeled scales.

  • Northern Red-bellied Snake Adult Photo by John White
    Photo of Adult Northern Red-bellied Snake courtesy of John White


    Any open forests, old fields, the edges of freshwater wetlands and sphagnum bogs. Found in dry to wet habitats.

    How to Find

    A secretive nocturnal species. Look under coarse woody debris and trash on field-woodland and wetland edges. This is a non-venomous species that is gentle when handled.

    Northern Red-bellied Snake Habitat Photo by Jay Kilian
    Photo of Habitat for Northern Red-bellied Snake courtesy of Jay Kilian

    Distribution in Maryland

    Irregular distribution throughout the state; uncommon on the Coastal Plain.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Northern Red-bellied Snake

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    Maryland Amphibian
    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.