A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Ring-Necked Snake
Diadophis punctatus... The Ring-Necked Snake
Also commonly referred to as the ringneck snake, this is a small common species of snake found throughout the United States.
The ring-necked snake has a unique appearance. The top side of their body is dark gray color. However their stomach is different color. Depending on which subspecies it is, the belly can be a bright yellow, orange, or red. They have a ring that wraps around their neck that will match the color on their belly. Beyond the ring up to the snake's head will be black.
Ring-necked snakes are very small snakes. Most of the ring-necked subspecies average between 10 and 15 inches. The regal ring-necked snake species average between 15 and 18 inches. It is not impossible for some of the subspecies to get over 20 inches, and it has been said that the regal ring-necked snake can break 30 inches.
Ring-necked snakes can be found throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They have 14 subspecies which of course each have their own respective locations.
I've stumbled across many of these little snakes in my life, and three one day earlier this year. I've always found them to be secretive little snakes and I've never seen one out in the open during the day. The ones I saw a few months ago were found while cleaning up around my father's property. One of them was under some older boards that had been sitting in the same spot all year. The other two were found under two old piles of rotting firewood. I've also found them under rocks and various other debris. The small snake likes to hide, and hang out in places where the bugs they like to eat may be found.
Ring-necked snakes eat bugs, worms, other small reptiles, and amphibians. Technically speaking, ring-necked snakes are both venomous and constrictors. What this means is that when the ring-necked snake attacks it's prey it bites on, wraps itself around the prey to choke it, and then bites down to ensure the tooth that releases the venom is deeply seated within it's victim for maximum results.
Interactions With Humans
Despite the fact that I just said the ring-necked snake is in fact venomous, that doesn't necessarily mean it is dangerous to humans. Not all venomous snakes have venom as a defense mechanism. The large pit vipers we are all familiar with (copperheads, rattlesnakes, water moccasins), have two big fangs in the front for defense and hunting. The ring-necked snake on the other hand releases it's venom from teeth in the back of it's mouth. A ring-necked snake has probably never even thought to use it's venom for defense. I have never heard nor could find any evidence of anyone being bit by a ring-necked snake, much less having additional injury from the venom they secrete. For one thing the venom comes from a rear tooth. Even when they are hunting they have to secure their prey first before biting with their venom tooth because it's so far back in their mouth. It is highly unlikely that a defense strike could land that particular tooth in deep enough to inject the venom. Secondly, even if it did the venom would likely be so mild to a human that it shouldn't cause any problems. Third, ring-necked snakes don't typically bite as a defense mechanism.
Ring-necked snakes will coil up and wrap their tail up in a corkscrew to show off the bright colors on their belly. They will also release a smelly musk to scare predators away.