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Ring-necked Snake

Diadophis punctatus edwardsi

Family: Colubridae

The subspecies of Ring-necked Snake that occurs in Canada is the Northern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsi).

COSEWIC status:
  • Not Assessed
SARA status:
  • No Status
IUCN status:
  • Least Concern


This slender snake is aptly named for the distinct yellow, cream or orange ring around the neck. The body is a uniform dark grey, brown or black and this species has smooth scales. Juveniles tend to be even darker than the adults and have velvety-looking skin. The belly of the Ring-necked Snake is generally bright yellow or orange with dark edges, although sometimes it is a dull yellow or whitish yellow. Adult Ring-necked Snakes are generally less than 50 cm long.

Similar Species

No other adult snake in Canada has a distinct yellow ring around its neck. Red-bellied Snakes and juvenile Northern Brownsnakes sometimes have light-coloured spots or ring-like markings on the neck, though the ring is usually broken in appearance. Red-bellied Snakes have a red belly and dark stripes down the back. Northern Brownsnakes have a light brown (but sometimes pinkish or tan) belly and a lighter central stripe with two rows of dark spots down the back.


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In Canada, the Ring-necked Snake is found from Ontario east of Lake Superior to Nova Scotia and PEI. The North American range of the Northern Ring-necked Snake extends as far south as Alabama, but only as far west as the eastern border of Minnesota. Taken collectively, the nine subspecies of Ring-necked Snakes occur throughout eastern Canada, the eastern and central United States and Mexico.


Ring-necked Snakes are usually found in forested areas, including forest edges and clearings. These snakes are most common in areas with shallow soil and surface bedrock, where they are frequently found under rocks, logs or bark. They hibernate underground and will also retreat underground during especially warm weather. Females lay their eggs in rotting logs or stumps, under rocks or in vegetation piles.


Ring-necked Snakes breed in the spring or fall and females lay up to 10 eggs in early summer. The eggs hatch after about two months and the hatchlings are an average length of 12 cm long. Individuals mature in two to three years and can live for more than 10 years. Ring-necked Snakes primarily eat salamanders, but they will also eat other amphibians, slugs, earthworms and insects. Though harmless to humans, Ring-necked Snakes have specialized teeth at the back of the mouth that deliver mild venom, which is produced in the Duvernoy’s gland. Ring-necked snakes are primarily nocturnal and remain under rocks, logs and leaf litter during the day, where they can sometimes be found in groups. If threatened, the Ring-necked Snake may emit a musky odour or display its bright underside to scare off predators.


Threats to Ring-necked Snakes include habitat loss, subsidized predation and road mortality. However, the Ring-necked Snake is relatively abundant where it occurs in Canada and most populations are thought to be secure.

Additional Information About This Species In Canada