A slender snake 18 to 26 inches (457 to 660 cm) long. Typically dark gray-black with 3 yellowish stripes extending down the length of the body (one at midline and one along each side). A yellowish spot occurs just anterior to the eye. Scales are keeled.
Live-bearer, with 3 to 26 young born in a single litter during the summer months.
Usually found near a body of water such as a pond or bog.
Eats a wide variety of invertebrate prey, although usually not earthworms. Amphibians and fish are also eaten.
Found in every state on the eastern seaboard. Occurs from southern Maine south to South Carolina, southwest to the Florida panhandle; west to Mississippi, and follows the Mississippi River north to southern Illinois. Occurs in isolated populations in Kentucky and Ohio. In Connecticut it occurs in all counties except Fairfield County, where a record from 1940 is the only evidence of its occurrence there (see Klemens 1993).
Not federally protected. Connecticut protects the species, listing it as a species of concern and controlling possession limits for this species.
Very similar to the garter snake. Differences include overall body shape (the ribbon snake is more slender), lateral light line (scale rows 3 and 4 in ribbons, rows 2 and 3 in garters), and the presence of a yellow spot in front of the eye in ribbon snakes (absent in garters).
Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 450 pp.
Klemens, M.W. 1993. Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. Hartford, CT: State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut Bulletin 112. 318 pp.
Text by Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell.
Photograph © Suzanne L. Collins. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Animals featured on this page are from Michigan and Pennsylvania.