Queen Snake / Couleuvre à Royale
The Queen Snake, and other live-bearing, harmless snakes, which were included within the
Family Colubridae, have recently been placed in the Family Natricidae.
The Queen Snake can grow to almost a meter in length. It is a uniform brown, but the colour
varies from tan to almost black. There is a yellow stripe along the lower side of the body
and the belly is also yellow with four distinct brown stripes.
No other snake in the Queen Snake's range has a striped belly. The
Red-bellied Snake can be dark and
fairly uniform in colour on top, but it only grows to about 40 cm in length. The belly, of
course, is red, however, some individuals do have orangey or yellowy bellies. Queen Snakes
are often found in the same habitat as Northern Water
Snakes. Young water snakes are strongly patterned but larger adults may be quite dark.
The Queen Snake is limited to extreme southwestern Ontario. Even within this area its
distribution is quite restricted. South of Canada, the Queen Snake ranges over much of the
eastern US, as far south as Florida.
This snake is usually found along streams and rivers with rocky shorelines and bottoms.
Occasionally it will be found in marshy areas. It is seldom found more than a few meters
Queen Snakes mate soon after emerging from hibernation in the spring. They give live birth
to their young late in the summer. One female can give birth to up to 23 young however,
half this number is more common. At birth the young are approximately 20 cm in length.
The Queen Snake is often found on land near streams, either basking or under rocks. In the
spring and fall communal basking may occur. Basking may even occur in low shrubs. The diet
of this species is one of the most restricted of any snake. It feeds almost exclusively on
crayfish. There is little known about hibernation sites.
At the northern limit of its range in southwestern Ontario, the Queen Snake is likely
normally less abundant than farther south. The profound changes to the landscape of this
area -- wetland drainage, forest clearing and high human density -- all threaten the
survival of the Queen Snake. Dams can make habitat unsuitable for Queen Snakes by altering
stream flow. Queen Snakes are designated Threatened in Canada by