Ring-necked Snake

October 26, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Ring-necked Snake

Ring-Necked Snake.
Photo: Burke Museum

Name: Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Order: Snakes (Squamata)
Family: Common Snakes (Colubridae)

What they look like

  • Ring-necked snakes can usually be distinguished by an orange or yellow band around their neck (only a few subspecies do not have these bands).
  • Their underside is also brightly orange and yellow colored. Their upper side ranges from grey to black, with their head usually having the darkest color.
  • They are small smooth slender snakes with an average adult length of 10 to 15 inches, females generally larger.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Ring-necked snakes can be found throughout the United States (especially along the eastern coast), southeastern Canada, and central Mexico.
  • Can adapt to many habitats but prefer to live in wooded areas.
  • Most of their time is spent hiding underground or under rocks, logs, or leaf debris.

What they eat

  • Most ring-necked snakes primarily feed on salamanders and earthworms.
  • Can also eat some invertebrates, lizards, amphibians, and other small snakes.


  • In June or July, females search under rocks or rotted logs for loose soil on which to lay their eggs.
  • They lay 3 to 10 long white eggs, which will hatch around 8 weeks later.

Cool Biology Facts

  • When threatened by a predator, ring-necked snakes will coil their tail and display their bright underside.
  • Ring-necked snakes are so common that they can reach very high densities in some areas; a study by Henry Fitch estimated that, in Kansas, ring-necked snake densities could be as high as 700 to 1,800 snakes per hectare (2.47 acres)!


Distribution Map.

Map of Ring-necked Snake distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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