Ribbon snake

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Ribbon snake
Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Thamnophis
T. sauritus
Binomial name
Thamnophis sauritus
(Linnaeus, 1766)[1]

4, see text


The ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus) is a common species of garter snake endemic to Eastern North America. It is a nonvenomous species of snake. It averages 16–35 inches (41–89 cm) in length and is a member of the genus Thamnophis.[4] The snake can be renowned for their physical traits of having slim bodies, sleek scales and lateral body stripes. It can be described as having a dark brown coloration with bright yellow spots tracing down the backs of the reptiles.[5] The Common Ribbon Snake is sexually monomorphic, however females are normally thicker than their male counterparts.

There are four different verified subspecies of the ribbon snake: the eastern ribbon snake, the northern ribbon snake, the southern ribbon snake (peninsula ribbon snake), and the bluestripe ribbon snake.

The ribbon snake can be found in wet climates such as creek-beds, streams, lakes, wet woodlands and marsh areas. Ribbon snakes are active from April to October and hibernate during the winter months. Maturity is reached around 3 years of age.[6]


The four recognized subspecies of ribbon snake are:

  • Eastern ribbon snakeT. s. sauritus - brown body with three distinctive stripes, typically yellow, down the middle that alternates with the brown body. [7]. Ranges from New York to Florida, west to the Mississippi River
  • Northern ribbon snakeT. s. septentrionalis - dark brown/ black color, ranges from Maine through Ontario and Indiana
  • Southern ribbon snake or Peninsula ribbon snake – T. s. sackeni - tan or brown color, ranges from South Carolina south through Florida
  • Bluestripe ribbon snakeT. s. nitae - dark with light blue color with lateral stripes, Gulf Coast of north-central Florida


Ribbon snakes are typically found in aquatic and areas of high vegetation such as marshes, ponds, streams, and lakes. Since they hunt for cold blooded animals, they tend to live in areas that are mainly water, making it easier for them to swim and catch their prey. Although most of them live in aquatic areas, they also tend to reside in forests or higher rocky areas. [8]

Prey and Predators[edit]

In order to hunt, ribbon snakes use a few of their senses including auditory and visual perception. Ribbon snakes do not eat warm blooded prey, just like their family of garter snakes do not. Using their auditory and visual traits, they are able to prey upon frogs, toads, tadpoles, small fish, spiders, earthworms, and newts. Meanwhile they fall prey to birds and larger amphibians and reptiles. [9] Ribbon snakes rarely use any aggressive forms of defense. Instead they will use their brown bodies and camouflage themselves into the forest ground. Along with this, they will also flee and hide in dense patches of grass in which they will coil up and get as low to the ground as possible.


Beginning in the spring, after hibernation, ribbon snakes begin to look for another snake that they will be able to mate with. Ribbon snakes are viviparous snakes, meaning they give birth to live young. The live young tend to be born in the summer, in litters of 4–27 snakes. Ribbon snakes tend to mature after 2–3 years, which is when they will be able to start breeding. Ribbon snakes tend to breed once or twice each year after they mature.[10]


  1. ^ Thamnophis sauritus, Reptile Database
  2. ^ Boulenger, G.A. (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families...Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part... Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). London. xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I–XXVIII. (Tropidonotus saurita, pp. 212–214.)
  3. ^ Ruthven, A.G. (1908). Variations and Genetic Relationships of the Garter-snakes. Bull. US Nat. Mus., 61: 1–201, 82 figures.
  4. ^ "Roger Conant 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Illustrated by Isabelle Hunt Conant, 2nd Ed. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 427 pp. w/48 pls and 311 distribution maps". Japanese Journal of Herpetology. 6 (3): 99. 1976. doi:10.5358/hsj1972.6.3_99. ISSN 0285-3191.
  5. ^ "Eastern Ribbon Snake Facts and Pictures | Reptile Fact". www.reptilefact.com. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  6. ^ "Eastern Ribbon Snake Facts and Pictures | Reptile Fact". www.reptilefact.com. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  7. ^ "Eastern ribbon snake videos, photos and facts - Thamnophis sauritus". Arkive. Archived from the original on 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  8. ^ "Common Ribbonsnake" (PDF). ct.gov. Retrieved 10/21/18. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ "Common Name". www.psu.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  10. ^ "Thamnophis sauritus (Eastern Ribbonsnake)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2018-10-22.

External links[edit]