Ribbon Snake

What does the ribbon snake look like?

The ribbon Snake is a member of the Garter Snake family. They have a slender thin body with a long tail (about 1/3 of the snakes body length is the tail) and their head is small with large round eyes. Their belly is a bright whitish or yellowish color and their body is blackish with three bright greenish yellowish stripes running the full length of body. The ribbon snake is not a large snake reaching only 18 to 34 inches in length however females tend to be longer, thicker and heavier then the males.

Where is the ribbon snake found in Montgomery County?

The ribbon snake is one of the most populated snakes found in Montgomery County Maryland. This species is found in a variety of habitats including forests, bogs, lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and rocky outcrops. Most often this species is found in close range to water ways because they feed on cold blooded prey and aquatic prey such as minnows, tadpoles, frogs, toads, night crawlers, newts, salamanders, and some insects. Homeowners in Gaithersburg, Germantown, Potomac and Bethesda frequently encounter the ribbon snake in their backyards however it is not common to find this species of snake inside homes or buildings. The ribbon snake is often seen sunning themselves on top of vegetation around water ways. They often seek shelter in burrows that were created by other animals.

What animals or wildlife prey on ribbon snakes?

Many different predators found in Montgomery County Maryland such as large fish, turtles, raptors, milk snakes, northern black racers, eastern hognose snakes, weasels, raccoons, and opossums will feed on the ribbon snake. Super-fast speed and camouflage helps the ribbon snake avoid capture by predators in some case however if captured they use one or a combination of defense tactics to deter the predator. Spraying a foul smelling anal gland musk combined with feces is one defense tactic they use. They may also shed their tail which will then continue to thrash about confusing the predator so that the snake may make an escape to safety. After the tail has fallen off once it will never grow back.

Is the ribbon snake venomous?

The ribbon snake is not a venomous species. Even though this species is not aggressive they will bite to protect their self.

What does the ribbon snake eat?

They feed on cold blooded prey and aquatic prey such as minnows, tadpoles, frogs, toads, night crawlers, newts, salamanders, and some insects. The ribbon snake will feed as needed. When they first come out of hibernation they look for food right away and generally feed twice a week however if it’s a pregnant female she may feed more. They may also feed more just before going into hibernation.

What are the habits of the ribbon snake?

Like all snakes the ribbon snake is coldblooded. To help maintain a comfortable and healthy body temperature they become nocturnal during the hot months of summer (June, July, and August). They will roam about during the daytime during spring, fall or cooler summer days. When temperatures are cooler the ribbon snake will lay in the sun to increase the body temperature.

What are the hibernation habits of the ribbon Snake?

During the colder months between October and April common ribbon snakes that inhabit Montgomery County Maryland will hibernate. They will hibernate in burrows made by other animals such as crayfish, voles or muskrats. They may be found hibernating with other species of snakes commonly found in Montgomery County especially garter snakes. The males prepare for mating by emerging from the hibernation den before the females.

What are the reproduction habits of the ribbon snake?

Mating occurs as the ribbon snake emerges from hibernation in late April the mid May however occasional breeding takes place in the fall and the female will store the sperm until hibernation is over in the spring. The male will insert a copulatory plug to prevent other males from mating with that female during that mating season. However, the male will not stay and will move on to mate with other females. Females give birth to between 3 and 26 live young sometime in August. After the female gives birth she will leave the new born young to survive on their own. This species reaches sexual maturity at two years of age.