Snake Profile: Ringneck Snake (9 Riveting Photos)

The Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus) is a common snake located in eastern Canada and most of the Eastern USA and Mexico. These small snakes are only partially venomous.

Though they do possess venom paired with rear-facing fangs, this species is not at all dangerous.

There are several subspecies of ringneck snakes, but apart from their geographical location, they have similar behavior.

A key feature of the ringneck snake is its very secretive and typically spend most of their life in solidarity.

Other names for the ringneck snake include the northern ringneck snake and the ring-necked snake.

Ringneck Snake Locality

Ringneck snakes are common reptiles that have a wide range of geographical distribution in North America.

ringneck snake with bright orange belly

The snake is located in Canada, Central, and Eastern North America. Their habitat extends from the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Southern Quebec, Ontario, down to southern Mexico.

The ringneck snake is more concentrated along the eastern seaboard in the USA and Canada, but once it reaches Mexico, it is more concentrated along the pacific coastline. 

Where to Look if You Want to Find One

The ringneck snake prefers a habitat where it can hide. This includes tall grass, crevices, logs, or leaf piles.

The snake often hibernates underground, especially when the weather is warm. It also prefers wet shallow soil through which it can glide without much effort.

If you want to find one, the best way to do so is by flipping over flat rocks. They love hiding under stones, and can very often be found there.

yellow banded ring neck snake wrapped around a stick

Unfortunately, the snake is nocturnal and very secretive.

It i s hard for the snake to roam during the day, this is because the small snake has many predators.

Natural Habitat and Environment

The ringneck snake has a wide range of habitat.

In the North, it prefers wet soil and slightly cooler conditions. In the south, it prefers tall grass and forest-like areas.

The western and northern subspecies prefer to hide under rocks, loose stones, or a pile of dead leaves.

In the open woodlands, the snakes are located under the rocky hillsides and ravines.

The Southern subspecies prefer wet locales like drains, marshes, swamps, and riparian woodlands.

The ringneck snake is chiefly terrestrial, but it is capable of climbing small trees and shrubs. 

Color, Size, and Attributes

The color of the ringneck snake does vary much among the subspecies.

The northern ringneck snake is usually dark blue, gray, or brown, but the southern ringneck snake may vary from gray to green.

beautiful orange and blue ring neck snake

In all cases, the color is solid except for an obvious golden ring around the neck, which is why it is named the ringneck snake.

This ring is located at the junction of the head and the neck and maybe a solid white, red, or yellow band.

ringneck snake with beautiful bright colors

As the snake matures, the band may become faint. The ring is usually circumferential but can also be partial in some snakes.

The undersurface is usually yellowish-orange, but some subspecies in the southern USA and Mexico may have an orange-reddish under the surface

. The under surface also has irregular black spots, which are often used to identify the different subspecies.

The number of scale rows on the eastern species is 15, but on the western species, there are 17. The snake’s scales are smooth, and the anal plate is divided. The mouth is relatively small, and the eyes are round. 

coiled up tail of the ringneck species of snake

Juvenile ringneck snakes tend to be darker than adults, and since the scales have not developed, the skin feels velvety.

So, if I see a Snake with a Yellow Ring Around it’s Neck…

Then yes, it is very likely a common ringneck snake. There are an abundance of these snakes in the US and Canada, so you’ll likely come across them at some point.

Ringneck Snake Lifespan

The lifespan of the ringneck snake is around 20 years in the wild. Strangely this species does not do well in captivity. It’s typical for a ringneck snake to live a meager 5-6 years when kept as a pet.

How Long Do Ringneck Snakes Get?

This small slender rarely grows more than 13-18 inches (30-45 cm), although longer species have been reported.

The fastest rate of growth is in the first year.

Most ringneck snakes reach an average of 11 inches (29 cm) within the first 12 months, and then the growth is considerably less over the next few years.

The snake will reach full body length after the fourth or fifth year.

During the early development, males tend to have a faster rate of growth and may be larger than the female, but once the female becomes sexually mature, it will be a few centimeters longer than the male.

Are Ringneck Snakes Venomous?

The ringneck snake does have a small amount of venom, but it is not very potent.

Plus, the small volume of toxins will not harm larger predators.

Also, the fangs are rear facing, so venom injection during a strike is rare. Its mostly used as a tool to help sedate small pray during ingestion.

All in all, experts consider the snake as non-venomous. So, there’s nothing to worry about when handling these snakes.

Bite from a Ringneck Snake… Unlikely

The ringneck snake is very small and unlikely to threaten a human.

The snake has very small, rear facing fangs, which in most cases, would not penetrate human skin.

On the rare occasion that a ringneck snake strikes a human, it would feel more like someone gently pinching your skin. Since they are so small, a bite from these fellas would be more cute than anything.

Besides, the amount of venom is small and is not toxic to humans.

In the case one does bite you, it’s recommended to wash your the area with soap and water.

General Behavior

The ringneck snake is a docile, non-aggressive reptile. It is a secretive snake that appear at night.

Unlike many other snake species, the ringneck snake is a social animal and may live in large colonies often numbering 100 or more. It is not unusual to find 6-10 snakes sharing a single den.

In most cases, the ringneck snake is nocturnal. The snakes basks in the early morning, but for the most part, it remains hidden under rocks during daylight.

One feature about these snakes is that they continually return to the same denning sites. Because the ringneck snake is small and does not secrete a potent venom, it usually will retreat when threatened.

When the ringneck snake is threatened, it will coil its tail and elevate it towards the intruder.

This behavior is only observed in ring necks with an orangish-red posterior.

The red coloration is supposed to be a warning sign to intruders. On the other hand, western ringnecks tend to feign death.

Ringneck snakes communicate with each other using body gestures, rubbing their heads, and secretion of pheromones. Males often rub their heads on females during mating.

The snakes use the sensations of sight, smell, and touch to see the world around them. The Ringneck snake is heterothermic, meaning it’s body temperature varies with it’s environment.

Defense Mechanisms

This species is known to emit foul odors when feeling threatened. It smells pretty bad, and is quite surprising since these snakes are so small.

This is a definite downside to owning one of these as a pet… nobody wants a smelly roommate.

Playing Dead.

As a last resort, this species is known to play dead. Not only will it put off a nasty smell, it will flip over showing it’s bright belly & will act as if it is deceased.

a ringneck snake playing dead. they will do this as a last ditch effort to deter prey

Not many species of snakes have this type of behavior, but ringnecks do. Typically, smaller snakes will play dead more often than larger species of snakes.


The ringneck snake is not without predators, which include foxes, possums, shrews, armadillos, skunks, bullfrogs, large birds, and other snakes like the racer, coral snake and kingsnakes.

Also, centipedes and large spiders will feed on the newborn ring snakes.

Ringneck Snake Diet and Eating Habits

The ringneck snake is strictly a carnivore.

The diet of the snake consists chiefly of small animals like amphibians, lizards, earthworms, insects, and other small snakes.

In the North, the ringneck snake primarily eats red-backed salamanders. 

How They Hunt

The ringneck snake kills by partial constriction of the prey.

It has a small amount of venom which paralyzes small insects and lizards.

However, the potency of the venom is not strong, and usually, the snake will wrap its body around the predator and squeeze them to death.

Reproduction and Mating

Males and females mature around ages 3 to 4. The females are polygynandrous (promiscuous) and may mate with several males.

Mating occurs just after Spring or in the Fall. To attract the male, the female will release pheromones from the skin.

While there is less information about the snakes reproductive cycle, the male and female engage in a ‘sexual dance’ during the mating session. After copulation, the female will lay the eggs in June or July. 

The number of eggs laid varies from 3-10. The eggs are covered with soil or the are hidden under a log or leaves. In areas where snake colones live, some snakes may lay the eggs in a communal nest.

Once the eggs are laid, the female does not stick around. Other predators consume the eggs when they are alone.

The majority of young ringneck snakes do not make it to adulthood.The eggs will mature in two months. The young lings will measure 2-4 inches and resemble the adults but tend to be darker in color.

The newborn will also have the same coloration and markings as the adult snake. The growth in the first two years is the fastest to ensure survival. 

Is the Ringneck Snake a Good Pet Snake?

Many people keep ringneck snakes as pets. These snakes are readily available in pet stores.

The docile and (kind of) non-venomous nature of the snake is two reasons for their popularity as pets.

While the snakes are easy to maintain, they can be difficult to feed. Getting small size foods like lizards and amphibians is not always possible.

Also, these are social snakes; thus, to ensure that the snake thrives, it is important to get several.

Unlike many other snakes that have a long life in captivity, the ringneck snake has a relatively short lifespan in captivity; most only live 5-6 years.

Also, since these snakes are so plentiful in the wild, it’s typical for people to catch them and keep them as pets.

We highly discourage doing that.

Generally, snakes born in the wild are not going to do well in captivity.

Overall, this species of snake is not the greatest pet snake.

Ringneck Snake Care Sheet

If you do choose to keep a ringneck snake as a pet, there are several measure’s you should take to ensure it has a happy life.

Enclosure Size

Generally, you don’t have to have a large enclosure if you keep one of these fellas as a pet. A 10 gallon snake tank should do just fine.

Light and Temperature

No light or heat source is needed for a ringneck snake. Generally, they like to hide under rocks and prefer cool, damp surroundings. Try to keep the average temperature around 70-75 degrees F at all times.

Ringneck Snake Care: Diet and Feeding

Since the snake is so tiny, you will not be able to feed it standard pinkie mice. While pinkie’s are small meals for most pet snakes, they are too big for a ringneck snake.

So, you’ll have to resort to bugs.

Generally, ringneck snakes will take to crickets and other sorts of insects. Crickets are widely available at most pet stores, so that won’t be a problem.

We recommend putting about 2-3 crickets in their terrarium per week. Try to space out feeding times over a few days.

Water Dish and Other Accessories

Be sure to keep a water dish in your pet snakes terrarium, and ensure that it has fresh water daily. Every now and again, snakes like to take a dip in their water, especially near shedding time.

Also, it’s recommended to have several hides, stones, and obstructions for ringneck snakes. They love to burrow and hide away, so you need to provide it with ample ‘hides’.

The Ringneck Snake Role in the Ecosystem

Ringneck snakes play a small role in the ecosystem, with their constant movement through leaves and debris, they continually encourage degradation of this biomass.

They also eat mice and help control the rodent population. They also serve as a food source for many predators.

Conservation and Threats

A few subspecies like the San Bernardino ringneck and the San Diego ringneck snakes are on the federally endangered or threatened species list.

The Key ringneck snake is also threatened in Florida and is a protected species. The majority of ringneck snakes are not endangered, but their numbers have been drastically declining over the decades.

One of the key reasons they have managed to survive for so long is their secretive nature and nocturnal lifestyle.

The ringneck snake faces extinction. Vehicles and humans kill the snake, this is due to the increase in urbanization.

Because the ringneck snake is secretive and nocturnal, the real number of snakes in the wild is not known.

Traders traffick the snake and sell it to pet stores. These are one of the most attractive snakes and docile.

The snake poses no threat to humans and is ideal for teaching children about reptiles.

Unfortunately, most people have a genuine fear of snakes, and even though the ringneck snake is harmless, it is more likely for humans to kill the snake when found.

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