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This site was created by students in the herpetology class at Towson University.  Site last updated: 05/21/07.

Acknowledgements: Herb Harris - Range Maps;  Mark Tegges - Photography; Dan Lapascha & Gigi Forester - TU Herpetology Logo

Eastern ribbon snake

(Thamnophis sauritus)


This snake gets its name from its very thin body, which may be 50-86 cm long at maturity.  Similar to a garter snake, ribbon snakes have three light stripes on a dark brown, grey, or black background, and the lateral stripes have a brown stripe below.  In contrast to garter snakes, the labial scales of ribbon snakes are unmarked and bright yellow or white, and there is a white or light yellow bar in front of each eye.  The venter color is yellow-green, the scales are keeled, and there are 19 dorsal scale rows at midbody.  Juveniles are colored like adults. 


These snakes are quick and are most active during the day, where they are usually seen at or near the edge of a body of water or in moist meadows.  They frequently bask on logs and rocks, but may also be seen basking in bushes near the ground.  If disturbed, they often retreat to the water for refuge and can be seen gliding away across the surface. 


Mating occurs most often after ribbon snakes emerge from their hibernacula in the spring, but some mating also takes place in the fall.  Females that breed in fall will delay fertilization and development until the following spring. Females give birth to an average of 12 live young in late summer or early fall.  Most young will take two years to reach sexual maturity, but some may delay breeding until the third year. 


Distribution in Maryland

Range map adapted from Harris, 1975.