Orange-Striped Ribbonsnake

Thamnophis proximus proximus

Orange-Striped Ribbonsnake

Black snake with orange and yellow stripes crossing a gravel road.
Submitted by Eric Wood
Other Common Name
Western Ribbon Snake
Family

Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Description

The long, slender orange-striped ribbonsnake is a type of gartersnake. Two wide, black stripes border a yellow or orange stripe down its back. Below the black stripes is a narrow yellow stripe. Often there is a yellow or orange spot on the black head. The belly is greenish or cream-colored, and it is unmarked. As with other gartersnakes, this species will secrete a foul-smelling musk from glands at the base of the tail when first captured.

Size

Length: 20 to 30 inches.

Western Ribbon Snake

Orange-Striped Ribbon Snake showing bright orange stripe along the back.
Orange-Striped Ribbon Snake in Springfield, MO
Habitat and conservation

This slender snake is active from April through October. In mild temperatures, it is active during the day, but in hot weather it may become nocturnal. It is seldom far from water. It lives in wooded areas near swamps, marshes, sloughs, ponds, streams, and rivers, and is often seen along banks of these bodies of water. It is quick and agile and doesn't hesitate to enter water.

Foods

Ribbonsnakes eat small frogs, toads, salamanders, and sometimes minnows. Earthworms are also eaten.

Orange-Striped Ribbonsnake dist map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Our subspecies of western ribbonsnake is the orange-striped ribbonsnake, named, naturally, for the attractive orange (or yellowish) stripes running down the length of its body.

Life cycle

Mating occurs during April and early May. The young are born from late June to September. A litter may contain 4-28 young, with an average of 12 or 13. At birth, the young are about 9 or 10 inches long.

Human connections

Many snake species are burdened with unfair, undying myths that paint them to be much more dangerous and harmful than they are. But persecuting this attractive, harmless species is particularly unjust, for it results from ignorance and fear. Support nature education. Speak out on behalf of snakes.

Ecosystem connections

As predators, ribbonsnakes and gartersnakes control populations of the animals they consume. As with many other predatory species, they can be preyed upon themselves by larger animals, including mammals and predatory birds. The defenseless young are especially vulnerable.