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Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus)

Photo by J.D. Willson

What does it look like?

The Eastern Ribbonsnake is a slender snake with three bright yellow stripes running down its back and sides, contrasting sharply with its black back. These snakes have a white chin, whitish-yellow belly and a distinct white crescent in front of each eye that can be used to distinguish it from a gartersnake. Adults grow to about 70 centimetres long, and females are typically larger than males. These snakes feed primarily on amphibians (i.e. frogs). An adult female gives birth to between five and 12 live young in late summer. The newly born snakes are independent and begin hunting for insects to eat almost immediately.

Where does it live?

The Eastern Ribbonsnake is usually found close to water, especially in marshes, where it hunts for frogs and small fish. A good swimmer, it will dive in shallow water, especially if it is fleeing from a potential predator. At the onset of cold weather, these snakes congregate in underground burrows or rock crevices to hibernate together.

What threatens it?

There is little historical data on the occurrence of this species in Ontario, it is likely that the Eastern Ribbonsnake has declined or even disappeared from many parts of southwestern Ontario due to the extensive loss of wetland and shoreline habitat in that region. The ongoing conversion of wetland to agricultural and urban uses, shoreline development and other habitat loss continues to be the main threat to this species in Ontario.

Where else has it been found?

The Eastern Ribbon Snake is found from southern Ontario west to Michigan and Wisconsin (isolated pockets), south to Illinois and Ohio, and east to New York State and Nova Scotia, where there is an isolated population. In Ontario, this snake occurs throughout southern and eastern Ontario and is locally common in parts of the Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay and eastern Ontario.

Rideau Waterway Land Trust, P.O. Box 42, Elgin, Ontario, K0G 1E0 Canada. Phone: +1 (343) 653 2500

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