Ring-necked Snake

Scientific Name
Diadophis punctatus
Also Known As
Ringneck Snake
All of Florida
Salamanders, Worms, Slugs
Life Expectancy
3 - 5 Years
The Ring-necked Snake

Photo 205896553 © Isaac Lord, CC BY-NC

Corn Snake conservation status - Least Concern

Quick Links

This Snake is Not Venomous

The Ring-necked Snake in Central Florida

The ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) is a small, harmless colubrid species found throughout central Florida. This nonvenomous snake is named for its distinctive yellow or orange neck band. Ring-necked snakes are secretive, nocturnal snakes that thrive in a variety of habitats.

This guide covers identification tips, biology, behavior, ideal habitat conditions, potential health risks, and prevention methods for ring-necked snakes in central Florida.

Ring-necked Snake Subspecies in the Area

Southern Ringneck Snake

The Southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus ssp. punctatus) is a subspecies found throughout Florida. Genetic evidence shows they diverged from northern relatives long ago. They have distinct red or orange belly coloration unlike yellow bellies of other subspecies. Southern ringnecks also have divided anal plate scales and grow longer, up to 20 inches. Living in pine forests and scrub, their traits are likely habitat adaptations.

Habitat loss has greatly reduced their limited range. Calling them a distinct subspecies emphasizes the need for habitat protection. Preserving peninsula scrub is essential for the Southern ringneck.

Appearance and Identification

Ring-necked snakes can be identified by the following characteristics

Adult Eastern Coachwhip

Photo 283560697 © nickolascook, CC BY-NC

Adult Ring-necked Snake

  • Size: Adults average 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) in total length. The record length is 20 inches (51 cm).
  • Coloration: Adults have a steel gray to jet black dorsum with a vivid yellow, orange, or reddish neck band. The ventral surface is yellow, gray, or salmon colored.
  • Scales: There are 15 scale rows at midbody. The scales are smooth and glossy.
  • Head: The head is not distinctly wider than the neck. The eyes have round pupils.
Juvenile Ringneck Snake

Photo 59023589 © J.D. Willson, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Ring-necked Snake

  • Size: Hatchlings average 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in total length.
  • Coloration: The background color is slate gray to bluish-black. A faint yellow or orange ring is visible on the neck. The belly is gray, yellow, or salmon pink.
  • Scales: The dorsal scales are smooth and iridescent. There are 15 rows of scales at midbody.
  • Head: The head is slightly wider than the neck with a rounded snout. Large eyes have round pupils.

Ring-necked snakes are often mistaken for baby coral snakes due to their colorful neck bands. Coral snakes have a black snout and bands of red, yellow, and black encircling the body. Other small snake species like ground snakes lack the vibrant neck ring of ring-necked snakes.

Maturation Rate

Ring-necked snakes mature rapidly. Males reach sexual maturity at 10-15 months old while females mature at 18-24 months old. The snakes breed soon after becoming reproductively active.

Habits and Behavior

Ring-necked snakes are nocturnal and generally secretive. They spend much of their time hiding under logs, leaf litter, rocks, bark, and other debris. When threatened, they may release a foul-smelling musk from their cloaca and curl up their tails to expose the bright ventral coloration as a warning signal.

Ring-necked snakes are non-venomous and harmless to humans. They may bite if handled roughly but cannot break human skin. Their primary defense is to release musk secretions, coil into a tight ball, and expose their bright belly to potential predators.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Ring-necked snakes mate from March to June in Florida. Females lay clutches of 3-7 eggs in June to August in rotting logs, compost piles, or underground. The eggs hatch in August and September. Hatchlings average 6-8 inches long.

Ring-necked snakes live for 3-4.5 years on average in the wild. The maximum lifespan may reach 7-10 years.

Ideal Habitat and Range

Central Florida’s humid, subtropical climate provides suitable habitat for ring-necked snakes. They thrive in areas with:

  • Warm weather – Average temperatures between 70-80°F.
  • Ample rainfall – 50+ inches annually especially in summer.
  • Dense ground cover – Pine flatwoods, scrub, brush, palm hammocks.
  • Moist microhabitats – Leaf litter, rotting logs, edge of wetlands.

Ring-necked snakes inhabit wooded suburban and urban areas in central Florida. They seek moist microclimates under debris in yards, parks, gardens, and landscaped commercial properties. Urbanization has expanded habitat via irrigated lawns, gardens, and detention ponds.

Diet and Feeding

Eastern coachwhips prey predominantly on small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. Using chemosensory cues to hunt, they pursue prey actively during the day. Their diet includes:

  • Small rodents – mice, rats, voles, squirrels
  • Lizards – skinks, anoles, whiptails
  • Snakes – eggs, juveniles, and smaller species
  • Frogs, toads, salamanders
  • Nestling birds, eggs
  • Large insects – grasshoppers, beetles

Coachwhips use constriction to subdue prey before swallowing it whole head-first. They can go weeks between meals. Coachwhips sometimes raid rodent dens and consume eggs and juveniles, providing pest control services. They may also opportunistically eat carrion.

A Ringneck Snake

Photo 44769698 © bobbyfingers, CC BY-ND

Health Risk Associated from Nuisance Animals

Common Health Risks

Eastern coachwhips are nonvenomous and not aggressive toward humans. They can deliver a painful defensive bite if severely threatened but rarely bite unless handled. Minor wounds from a bite may become infected without care.

Some key points:

  • Coachwhip saliva is not toxic or medically significant.
  • The teeth are small and bites generally do not cause major injury. Disinfect thoroughly as with any animal bite.
  • Coachwhips are not carriers of any infectious diseases transmittable to humans or domestic animals.
  • They help control rodent and insect pest populations and are generally beneficial to suburban environments.
  • Coachwhips should not be harmed or killed as they are protected native wildlife species in Florida.

Preventing Eastern Coachwhip Encounters

To discourage coachwhips, keep yards free of heavy vegetation and brush piles. Closing openings in foundations, vents, and garages prevents access. Glue traps along building perimeters safely catch small snakes.

Remove outdoor food sources like pet bowls and fallen fruit to avoid attracting prey. Coachwhip-proof fencing provides a physical barrier to keep snakes out of gardens and play areas. Teach children to recognize coachwhips and not approach them.

Many coachwhip encounters are benign. If one is spotted on your property, allow it to move away undisturbed. Never attempt to kill or capture a coachwhip yourself – always call a professional wildlife removal expert for humane removal assistance.

Eastern Coachwhips in Central Florida – Conclusion

Eastern coachwhips are quick, common snakes that frequent open habitats in central Florida. They are an important part of the local ecosystem and avoid interactions with humans. With proper identification, exclusion techniques, and removal of habitat attractants, coachwhips can be deterred from taking up residence near homes.

Educational outreach also promotes tolerance and sensible precautions around these harmless native snakes.