Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma)

Photo of Rainbow Snake courtesy of Lance Benedict
Photo of Rainbowsnake courtesy of Lance Benedict

36 inches – 44 inches. Record: 60 inches.

  • This beautiful glossy iridescent snake is like no other in Maryland.
  • It has 3 red stripes on a blue-black background running the length of its body.
  • The belly is primarily red with paired rows of black spots.
  • The tail is short and ends in a sharp tip, which it may use to probe the ground.
  • The scales are usually keelless but there may be some keeled scales above the vent.
  • The anal plate is usually divided, but may also be single.

Tail Barb (top) Anal Plate (bottom) - courtesy of John White
Tail Barb (top)
Anal Plate (bottom)
courtesy of John White

Habitat for Rainbow Snake courtesy of Matt Sell
Habitat for Rainbowsnake
courtesy of Matt Sell


This is a highly aquatic species, preferring swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams. They tolerate brackish water. They will also be found on dry land, burrowing in moist soil, muck or a sandy substrate.

How to Find:

This is a highly rare species in Maryland. These snakes are swimmers and burrowers. Young may be found by looking under boards or other cover near streams. This snake is state listed as Endangered in Maryland. If found, please report sightings to the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Distribution in Maryland:

Found infrequently on the western portion of the Coastal Plain and possibly in the Potomac valley into Montgomery County.​

Rainbow Snake - Distribution in Maryland