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Dekay's Brownsnake

Storeria dekayi

Family: Colubridae

COSEWIC status:
  • Not at Risk
SARA status:
  • No Status
IUCN status:
  • Least Concern


The Dekay’s Brownsnake is brown to grey and less frequently pink to reddish in colour. It always has two parallel rows of small dark spots bordering a lighter wide stripe down the back. On some Dekay’s Brownsnakes, these parallel spots may appear connected. The belly is outlined with black flecks and is usually light brown but sometimes pinkish or tan. This species also has a dark stripe on both sides of the neck behind the eyes and another below each eye. Juvenile Dekay’s Brownsnakes may have a light-coloured marking behind the head. The dorsal scales of this species are keeled (ridged down the centre) and the anal plate is divided. The Dekay’s Brownsnake is relatively small and grows to just over 50 cm in length.

Similar Species

Because of the light-coloured ring-like marking on the neck of the juvenile Dekay’s Brownsnake, it may be confused with a Ring-necked Snake. Ring-necked Snakes, however, have smooth scales, a yellow or orange belly and no patterning on the back. Red-bellied snakes have a bright red, red-orange or pink belly and thin stripes down the back rather than spots.


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The Dekay’s Brownsnake is relatively common and widespread within its Canadian range, although little information on its abundance is available. In Canada, the Dekay’s Brownsnake is limited to southern Ontario and a small part of southwestern Quebec. The occurrence of this species seems to be very “spotty”, being abundant in some areas and absent in others. It ranges across most of the eastern half of the United States and into some parts of Mexico and Central America.


The Dekay’s Brownsnake can be found in a diversity of habitats, including forests, fields, rocky outcrops, alvars, forest clearings, edge habitats including rocky beaches and even urban areas. These snakes spend much of their time under logs, rocks, boards, leaves and other cover. They overwinter in animal burrows or other underground cavities.


Dekay’s Brownsnakes breed in the spring soon after emerging from hibernation. Females incubate the fertilized eggs internally and give birth to 3–31 live young in late summer. The newborn snakes are about eight to 11 cm in length. This species reaches maturity in two to three years and can live for more than 10 years, although little is known about maximum longevity. These snakes are primarily nocturnal, though they may be active during the day as well. They eat a variety of invertebrates such as insects, slugs and earthworms, and occasionally small fish or amphibians. When threatened, brownsnakes may flatten themselves against the ground and release a foul-smelling musk.


This species is fairly tolerant of human disturbances to the landscape, though predation from subsidized predators (e.g. racoons, feral cats), road mortality and habitat loss are known threats to this species.

Additional Information About This Species In Canada