Red-bellied Snake / Couleuvre à Ventre Rouge
The Red-bellied Snake, and other live-bearing, harmless snakes, which were included
within the Family Colubridae, have recently been placed in the Family Natricidae.
The Red-bellied Snake is brown, gray or black and grows to only 40 cm in length.
Individuals may have a single broad light stripe, or four faint and narrow dark stripes,
or all five stripes down the back. There are three light spots on the nape of the neck,
which may fuse to form a ring. The belly is usually red, but may be orange or yellow.
The red belly and light spots about the neck are quite diagnostic for this species. The
Ringneck Snake has a definite ring about the neck,
rather than just spots. It also rarely has a red belly and the Ringneck Snakes grows to
over 75 cm in total length.
The Red-bellied Snake occurs from eastern Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. The distribution in
Canada is not continuous as it is not found north of Lake Superior. The Red-bellied Snake
is found across much of the eastern US as far south as Texas and Florida.
The edges of wooded areas are the preferred habitat of Red-bellied Snakes, hence they are
often found in fields, meadows and abandoned farms.
Mating occurs in the spring or sometimes in the fall. Females do not lay eggs but give
birth to their young in late summer. A brood can consist of up to 21 snakes, although
approximately 7 is the average. The newly born snakes are 7-10 cm in length and mature
in approximately 2 years.
Red-bellied Snakes are primarily nocturnal, remaining concealed under boards or logs during
the day. They eat mainly slugs, but other invertebrates such as earthworms and insects are
also consumed. Occasionally Red-bellied Snakes will climb shrubs or trees. An individual
may move no more than 500 m from its hibernation site over the entire summer. Most
Red-bellied Snakes make use of the same hibernacula each winter.
This snake is virtually absent in areas of low forest cover. Individuals are also
frequently found dead on roads. Yet where good habitat remains, the Red-bellied Snakes
may be one of the commonest snakes.