Amphibians and Reptiles of Long Island,
Staten Island and Manhattan


Regional Snakes

35. Northern Brown Snake - Storeria dekayi dekayi
Description: 9 - 13 ¾" (23 - 35 cm). Dorsum color dark brown to light tan. Dorsal scales keeled. Two parallel rows of dark spots down back. Black mark behind eye and on neck. Belly light color with black dots. Anal plate divided.

Similar species in our area: Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus), Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis ssp.) and Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) all may look similar. Northern Redbelly Snake (S. occipitomaculata) has red belly.

Lifestyle: This species is fairly common and is tolerant of human activity. It can be found throughout our area. Inhabits various environments from woodlands and swamps to lots, golf courses and cemeteries. Mates spring and fall. It is a live-bearing species. Young have yellow ring around neck, 3-4.5". Brood size 3-30.
 

36. Northern Water Snake - Nerodia sipedon sipedon
Description: 24 - 44" (61 - 110 cm). Reddish brown to grayish brown. Keeled dorsal scales. Heavily patterned with darker band patterns from neck to anus. Belly is cream colored, often dark, crescent shaped spots along periphery of belly scales. Anal plate divided.

Similar species in our area: NONE

Lifestyle: This snake is fairly common near water and can be found throughout our area. The species tolerates a wide variety of aquatic habitats and can handle some human activity. Mates April to June gives live birth in September and October. Heavy black banding along otherwise light gray dorsum. Born at 6 - 8". Brood size 15-50. This species is active both in during the day and night.
 
 

37a. Common Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis ssp.
Description: 18 - 51" (45 - 130 cm). Highly variable color. Distinguishing characteristics: 1) Side stripe NOT ON on 2nd and 3rd scale rows. 2) Back stripe present. 3) Red blotches often present between stripe. 4). Capable of releasing an unpleasant musk scent. Anal plate single.

Similar species in our area: The Eastern Garter Snake (T. sirtalis sirtalis) is our native subspecies; all others are probably introduced. Ribbon Snake (T. sirtalis) and Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)

Lifestyle: Our native species (sub-species) is common, all others are uncommon. May be found throughout our area. There are many reports of these snakes being released by their owners.  Although this might seem like the right thing to do, releasing pet animals whether native or non-native is a dangerous thing to do and can spread disease to wild populations.  IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL They inhabit woodlands and fields usually near water, and are quite tolerant to human activity.  Capable of releasing an unpleasant musk scent.  Live bearing species which mates March to May (sometimes as late as October) and gives birth May through September. Brood size 3-80. Young 5-9".
 

37b. Eastern Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
Description: 18 - 25 ½" (45 - 65 cm). Ground color olive to brown to black. Three stripes; one down back, one down each side along 2nd and 3rd scale rows. Belly green to yellow with two rows of subtle black dots. Keeled scales Checkerboard pattern may be present on dorsal side. Anal plate single.

Similar species in our area: All other Garter Snake (T. sirtalis ssp.) species other than our native subspecies, Ribbon Snakes (T. sauritus) and Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi).

Lifestyle: This species is common and can be found throughout our area.  There are many reports of these snakes being released by their owners.  Although this might seem like the right thing to do, releasing pet animals whether native or non-native is a dangerous thing to do and can spread disease to wild populations.  IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL.  Capable of releasing an unpleasant musk scent. It can be found in almost any habitat from forests to fields to parks to lots. Live bearing species which mates March to May (sometimes as late as October) and gives birth May through September. Brood size 3-80. Young 5-9".
 
 

38a. Ribbon Snake - Thamnophis sauritus ssp.
Description: 18 ½ - 40" (47 - 101 cm). Ground color is dark olive, brown or black. Slender, narrow body with three tan to bluish stripes; one down center of back, and one each down side on 3rd and 4th scales rows. Dorsal scales keeled. Dorsal head dark, ventral head (chin) white. Stripe down margin of belly scales. Anal plate single.

Similar species in our area: The Eastern Ribbon Snake (T. sauritus sauritus) is our native subspecies; all others are introduced. Garter Snake (T. sirtalis) is bulkier and has side stripes on 2nd and 3rd scale rows.

Lifestyle: Our native species is not very common and other introduced sub-species are even less common. Found on L.I.; extinct from S.I.  There are many reports of these snakes being released by their owners.  Although this might seem like the right thing to do, releasing pet animals whether native or non-native is a dangerous thing to do and can spread disease to wild populations.  IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL Often found on the margins of wetland areas both forested and open. Live bearing, mates in Spring, gives birth to live young in August and late summer. Brood size 3-25. Young are born at 7-9".
 

38b. Eastern Ribbon Snake - Thamnophis sauritus sauritus
Description: 17 ¾ - 26" (45 - 66 cm). Ground color dark red to brown. Three yellow dorsal stripes; one down center, one on each side along 3rd and 4th scale rows. Head bi-colored; dorsal is dark, chin is white. A very slender species with pale belly which may bear a stripe. Scales keeled. Anal plate single.

Similar species in our area: All other Ribbon Snake (T. sauritus ssp.) species other than native subspecies; Garter Snake (T. sirtalis ssp.) hasstripe on 2nd and 3rd scales rows.

Lifestyle: This species is not very common. It can be found on L.I., and is extinct from S.I. It is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, bordering water in wetland areas.  There are many reports of these snakes being released by their owners.  Although this might seem like the right thing to do, releasing pet animals whether native or non-native is a dangerous thing to do and can spread disease to wild populations.  IT IS ALSO ILLEGALCan tolerate human pressure somewhat. Live bearing; mates early summer, gives birth late summer early fall. Brood size 3-25. Young are born at 7-9".
 
 

39. Eastern Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
Description: 23 5/8 - 35 ½" (60 - 90 cm). Vivid color patterns on dorsum blotched with brown to tan to red bands usually in three rows; mid-dorsal row much larger than lateral rows. Distinct "Y" or "V" shaped marking on top of head. Scales are smooth. Anal plate single.

Similar species in our area: Young Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) may look similar. This species has crescents on belly, keeled scales and double anal plate.

Lifestyle: This snake is fairly common throughout our area. Found in a wide range of places from lightly wooded areas to fields to lots and parks. They are somewhat tolerant of human pressure. The "milk" part of their name comes from the myth that these snakes had the ability to mile cows.  This likely originated as a result of their propensity to inhabit barns.  Breeds May to June. Lays 3-20 elliptical eggs in rotting vegetation in June and July. Eggs hatch in August and September and young have bright red markings and are 5-10".
 

40. Eastern Worm Snake - Carphophis amoenus amoenus
Description: 7 ½ - 11" (19 - 28 cm). Looks like an earthworm. Flattened head and very small eyes. Belly is pink and translucent. Smooth scales. Anal plate divided.

This photograph was supplied by Guntram Deichsel.
Similar species in our area: NONE

 
 

Lifestyle: This species is uncommon and probably only remain in isolated areas of L.I. It is listed as a "Species of Special Concern" by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. This species may be considered uncommon due to itís fossorial lifestyle and small, well camouflaged body. The name of this species comes from their similarity to worms in both design and habit.  They live in well drained soils in our Pine Barren region. Mate in late spring and fall. Deposit 4-5 thin shelled eggs under 1" in June and July. Hatching occurs in August and September. Young are darker than adults and are about 3-4" at hatching. ANY SIGHTINGS OF THIS SPECIES SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION.
 

41. Northern Black Racer - Coluber constrictor constrictor
Description: 36 - 67" (90 - 170 cm). Completely black except for a white chin and throat. Scales are smooth. Juveniles have mid-dorsal row of gray spots. Anal plate divided.

Similar species in our area: NONE

Lifestyle: This species is fairly common throughout our area. It prefer lightly forested pine and deciduous, but is usually found on borders (sometimes rocky) where there is open land and sunlight. Mates April to May. Lays 7-30 leather granular eggs at 1-2" in June to August in dirt or vegetation.  This is the largest and fastest of the snakes in this area.  Young hatch late August to late September 8-13" with distinct patterning of brown to red splotches on gray/blue ground-color down center of back. Dark spots on sides and belly, yet tail is unpatterned.
 
 

42. Smooth Green Snake - Liochlorophis vernalis
Description: 11 ¾ - 19 ¾" (30 - 50 cm). This species is green dorsally and cream white ventrally. It is narrow and has smooth scales. Anal plate divided.

Similar species in our area: NONE

Lifestyle: This species is not common. It can be found on L.I. and is extinct from S.I. Favors grassy fields where it is well camouflaged and seldom noticed. Mates spring and summer. In may lay around 5 oval eggs that are thin shelled in late summer, or females may incubate eggs internally. Young hatch 4-20 days at 4-6" and are olive to blue/gray.
 
 
 

43. Eastern Hognose Snake - Heterodon platirhinos
Description: 20 - 33 ½" (51 - 85 cm). Color is variable from black to brown to olive to orange. Tip of nose is upturned. Scales are heavily keeled. Blotched patterns often present on back. Will often play dead and flatten head.

This species is rear-fanged and minutely venomous, but completely harmless to man.

Similar species in our area: NONE

Lifestyle: This species is uncommon and only remains on L.I. It is listed as a "Special Concern" species by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  The loss of the snake may be correlated to the recent decline in Fowler's toad populations throughout the area.  Loss of habitat is also a likey culprit. This species has several means of defense.  If startled this snake may play dead, rattle it's tail like a rattlesnake, or flatten it's head like a cobra.  It prefers Pine Barrens with sandy soils and ample basking areas. Mates from May to late June. 4-60 thin shelled 1 ¼" eggs deposited in sandy soil June and July. Young hatch August and September at 6.5-10". ANY SIGHTINGS OF THIS SPECIES SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION.
 
 

44. Northern Ringneck Snake - Diadophis punctatus edwardsii
Description: 9 13/16 - 15 ¾" (25 - 40 cm). Slate gray to black dorsum with smooth scales. Golden ring behind head. Belly is bright yellow to red with some black spots possible. Anal plate divided.

Similar species in our area: Northern Redbelly (Storeria occipitomaculata) has 3 spots around neck.

Lifestyle: This species is not commonly seen, but can be found throughout much of our area. This may be due to itís small size and secretive lifestyle. They can tolerate human pressure and can be found in and under our debris. Also found in pine and deciduous forests, gardens and meadows. Breeds May to July and fall. 5-10 1" yellow/white eggs laid June and July in debris (sometimes in communal nest sites). Young hatch August and September at 4-6". Young are darker than adults.
 

45. Redbelly Snake - Storeria occipitomaculata
Description: 8-15" (20.3 - 35 cm). Small black/brown snake with bright red belly and neck spots (3). Anal plate is divided.

Similar species in our area: Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus) has complete ring around neck; Brown Snake (S. Dekayi) does not have red belly.

Lifestyle: This species is very rare and there are only scattered reports of itís presence on L.I. It prefers moist, swampy habitats under debris. This species mates in spring and fall. 5-9 live young emerge during late summer at 3-4". Young look like adults but are darker.