Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prairie Ringneck Snake

Prairie Ringneck (Disdophis punctatus arnyi) Snakes are one of the smallest (up to 14 inches) and most commonly found snakes in NW Missouri. One farm our family owns has them under almost every rock you turn over. They seem to vary in color depending upon region. They can be slate gray to brown with a ring color of yellow, orange or red. There is even a sub-species that lacks a ring around its neck entirely. These tiny, unassuming snakes are harmless, in fact their only defense is to flash the red underside of their tail. This is to distract a predator away from their head.

This snake rarely if ever tries to bite, and even if it did you wouldn't feel the bite at all......however it may startle you. Believe it or not though, this snake does have venom and could technically be classified as a venomous snake. However, the fangs they use to administer the venom are located at the back of their mouth and are not likely to ever come in contact with our skin. The venom seems to be a strategy for subduing prey, rather than a defense mechanism. They use a combination of constriction and envenomation to capture and kill prey. They typically feed on tiny salamanders, frogs, earthworms, and even small snakes. The venom poses no threat to humans.


These snakes are secretive and nocturnal. You are unlikely to see one out during the day without actually looking for them under logs, rocks, or other things they can hide under. These snakes are somewhat social and occasionally  will be found in large aggregations of up to 100 snakes. I commonly see as many 4 or 5 together under one rock.

Females are generally larger than males and they reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 or 5. Mating usually takes place in the spring when the female will release a pheromone from her skin that attracts nearby males. The male will rub the female with his closed mouth, and move in such a way as to line up their bodies, he then bites the female around the neck to anchor her.  After mating, the female will lay up to 10 eggs; the young hatch sometime during August or September. Although occasionally mating takes place in the fall, and the female will delay fertilization until the following spring. When the young hatch they are approximately 3 to 4 inches long and will be completely on their own to fend for themselves. These snakes live approximately 10 years in the wild, but are capable of living up to 20 years in the wild. They are becoming increasingly popular in the pet trade because of their mild nature and beautiful coloration although, in my opinion they do not do well in captivity, and may only live up to 5 years. Because of their secretive nature, they are not very exciting animals to keep anyway. They will bury themselves in the containers substrate or hide out under stones or any other hide you provide for them and only come out during feeding time.

Very little is actually known about this snake, and much research still needs to be done to fully understand their lifecyle. I smell a research project!
 


27 comments:

  1. I never have seen one. I had a place that was full of garters like that. They caught one off guard even though you knew they were always around, especially in the garden.
    Steve.OOTP

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  2. Garter snakes are very plentiful around here too....in fact I probably see them more frequently than I do any other snake. We have the eastern garter snake and a subspecies of it the red-sided garter snake both living in our yard.
    I bet the ringneck snake is in your area, start flipping logs and rocks and I bet you find one.

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  3. We just found one today in Mountain Grove, Mo..looked just like pic..orange on bottom, greyish on top with orange ring around its neck....

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    1. I just found One in Mountain Grove,it was a dark,rusty brown head to toe with a vibrant orange ring, I could not see the bottom, It was gone so quickly I couldn't see its eyes.... 04/24/2013

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  4. I've found two in the past two weeks. One had a band around its neck and a random scattering of dots on its belly. The other didn't have a band and its belly dots were in a pattern. Living in the hills south of Heber Springs, AR, finding a Prairie ringneck snake was a surprise.

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  5. I caught one of these in St. paul Nebraska on the loup river while out swimming like 10 years ago never seen one before until then wasn't even sure if it was poisonus or not so I trapped it until I got so more info on it, neat little guy kept it for quite some time then let it go after awhile, coolest snake I've ever caught and smallest to, it actually seemed to change colors in different environments from orange, grey, blue and red.

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  6. Found one in my pool skimmer in SoCal. Had a red ring around neck and red tail.

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  7. I found five today there pritty fun to play with

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  8. I rescued one before my cat had caused any damage to it. At first I thought it was a Racer. The remarkable, beautiful bright colors on the belly side and even the irresdescent grey on top I almost wanted to keep it. I guess these guys aren't just found in Missouri since I live in California.

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    1. I can say they are in fact in Missouri. Found one outside yesterday(a hatchling) and at least one if not more have taken to hiding/living under the sink in my bathroom....

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  9. Just found two of these raking old leaves out of my flower garden. 5 mile North of Topeka. Never seen one before. Was about the size of a large pencil.

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  10. Found one today in my ground level cube at work in Bingen, WA. Cute guy displayed his orange to red tail tip 'till it looked almost like a round forbidding eye.'Let him get back outside.

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  11. We pulled bushes from in front of our house and found one today. The colors are very vibrant. The underside is yellow to a neon orange at the tail. We are in Southwest Missouri near Carthage.

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  12. I just found one in my house at 3 in the morning...lucky my cat was awake to tell me. Managed to get it back outdoors no problem. I was just surprised at how calm it was in the process. Last time I saw a snake in my house, it was really trying to make a break for it!

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  13. We have found a small ring- neck in our house every day for the past three days and I am freaking out! How are they getting into the house? Do I have more? We live in the country with woods behind the house and pastureland surrounding the rest of the yard.

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    1. I am not exactly sure how they are getting into your home,but I do know they can fit through impossibly tiny holes. They will even slither under the cracks of our doors. It would be almost impossible to keep them out of your home entirely as we can't possibly seal every single hole. The question of why they are entering can be a difficult one to answer as well. Depending on where you live it could be because of the drought and they are looking for moisture. If you live in a northern climate if could be they are looking for a place to hibernate for the winter, which I know seems WAY early, but given the odd year we have had this year, it wouldn't surprise me if they start seeking shelter early. I really think we will see an early fall and winter this year. Depending on their size, it could mean a female laid eggs near your home and the neonates are becoming confused and ending up in your house by mistake. Are the snakes less than 5 inches in length? If so those are juveniles or newborns. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help, but with snakes inside homes it is such a difficult problem to assess. My husband and I are dealing with a similar situation that has been going on for 4 years now. We have black rat snakes, blue racers and garter snakes getting into our basement. They have spent each winter for the past 4 years in a crawl space in our basement. We've tried everything to block them from getting in and they return each year. It is frustrating, but I try to look at it from the bright side. I have no mice in my house and haven't had for many years now. They don't spread disease or get into my stuff. They aren't harmful and they stay in the crawl space so I never encounter them in the living portion of the house. I hope you resolve the issue at your house and I hope you don't kill the snakes. They are harmless and will not bite. They also eat a lot of slugs and worms around your home.

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  14. I grew up in North Central Ks close to the Nebraska border and my siblings and I used to find them under rocks and take them home just to see how many we could find. We didn't keep them long, especially since our mischievous cousin came over and let them escape one day. Now at work in an office in Kansas City, KS there have been two little ones that have come in to visit in the past few months or so...trying to escape the cool temp's outside I suppose.

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  15. just find one in a state park,very pretty

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  16. Found one in our flower bed today. Its hurt in the middle. We didn't know what to do with it so it is in a can. It moves every once in a while, but I think he's almost gone. Poor fellow!
    We are in South East Mo

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  17. I just found one near a floor drain inside a restroom in Monett, MO. I didn't know what kind of snake it was. I swept it outside and then checked the internet. The gray snake is about 10" long and has an orange ring around its neck. The underside is yellow with a double row of black dots along the yellow-side edge. The underside of its tail is orange instead of yellow.

    The snake was very active while in the restroom and while I was remotely handling it but played dead when it ended up outside.

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  18. I have never seen one and enjoyed reading all of the reports - hope they are not caught to keep - after their "visit" let them go near to where they were captured, please.
    Thanks!

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  19. I found one in my drive way today, I live on 70ac of woods and just few miles away from Mark Twain Lake, how many more do you think I will have. And the can not hurt your correct?

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  20. I've caught 11 of them in my garage in the last two months. All about 4-5" long. I just take them outside and throw them in the woods. Can't wait until my 2 year old son finds one to play with.

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  21. Three have made it into our basement and are about 5 inches long and about the size of straw (smaller than a pencil). We live near Jefferson City, Mo.

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  22. I just found one about 5 inches long very slender in my garage. Looks like a baby I am guessing there are more in the garage? I had also found one in the rock bed near house it was about 12 inches long. We back up to a field so I am sure the can come in from there. I wonder how you can catch them? Would the stick paper you use for mice work? I live in Lees Summit, Mo.

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    1. The 5 inch ringneck you found in your garage is indeed a juvenile. The 12 inch long ringneck in your garden is a full grown adult. The female lays eggs and the juvenile could be the offspring of the garden adult. I never recommend using glue traps. They are inhumane. These little snakes are harmless, they are not venomous, they rarely if ever bite and even if they did it would not hurt. They are not aggressive in any way. They consume worms and slugs, so if you have a slug population on your property they are actually helping you out by controlling their population. The little one in your garage will hide out until spring returns then it will head outside. Please don't resort to glue traps. Snakes caught on these traps are going to die a slow agonizing death by starvation. Imagine being stuck to an object, unable to move, and slowly starve to death. I've had snakes brought to me with glue traps stuck to them and it is a long, tedious process to get them off, and scales are usually torn off in the process, which can result in infection. For tiny, delicate snakes like ringneck snakes it is likely they would be pulled in half trying to get them off. Truly a horrible death for a harmless animal that will not cause any damage to you or your property.

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  23. We found a baby in our garage today. took him out and put him in the woods. I'm not thrilled there could be more. I don't care for snakes.

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