Some other names for this species:
Subspecies I've seen:
Diadophis punctatus amabilis
Pacific Ring-necked Snake
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, San Mateo County, California—October 2, 2005
I was surprised to see this pretty little ring-necked snake under a small board in the dry month of October. Ring-necked snakes are usually found when the ground is moist, but the rainy season had not yet begun.
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, San Mateo County, California—July 3, 2013
Another from the same area, with very similar bright coloration. These guys are so much prettier than many of the other subspecies, such as the ones I've seen in Kansas
Diadophis punctatus arnyi
Prairie Ring-necked Snake
Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area, Jackson County, Missouri—April 27, 2008
I wasn't expecting to see many herps when we stopped at this small natural area, both due to its proximity to Kansas City and due to the coolness of the morning. Come to think of it, I didn't actually see much, but I did see my first and second Prairie Ring-necked Snakes (under the same rock), as well as a few five-lined skinks
Green Memorial Wildlife Area, Shawnee County, Kansas—April 28, 2008
This was my first experience with looking for snakes in Kansas, a place famous among people who look for snakes. I'd driven across Kansas a couple of times before, but we were always in a hurry to get to Colorado where my parents live, and the weather had never been cooperative. It wasn't particularly cooperative on this day either, being pretty cool in the morning when we had just a couple of hours to spend walking the dogs and looking for wildlife. But the dogs had a good time and I uncovered eleven Prairie Ring-necked Snakes on a couple of hillsides. The snake in the second picture is the same snake as in the first picture; it decided to play dead hoping I would leave it alone (which I did pretty soon in any case).
Jackson County, Missouri—May 4, 2017
The hard part about photographing ring-necked snakes in western Missouri is not finding them. We estimated that there were about 30 under this board, and I saw another 180 or so on the rest of this four-day trip. The hard part is that you get overwhelmed by their numbers; it always seems (and probably is) more worthwhile to go look for some other less common species than to spend any time getting any one ring-necked snake to sit still for a photo session.
Diadophis punctatus punctatus
Southern Ring-necked Snake
Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida—March 10, 2004
Peeling old palm fronds away from the ground led me to discover two cute little ring-necked snakes on this pleasant Florida morning. This broke my snake string of seven straight Eastern Racers
Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida—April 3, 2008
While staying at my mother-in-law's house in southern Florida, I was bemoaning the paucity of snakes I had come across in the few weeks we had been there. On the last day of our stay, we were heading out for our favorite lunch (Miami's Best Pizza
, if you must know) when I glanced down to see this pretty little guy a few inches outside the front door.
Diadophis punctatus regalis
Regal Ring-necked Snake
Valley of Fires State Park, Lincoln County, New Mexico—May 21, 2008
The Regal Ring-necked Snake is both the largest subspecies and the one most adapted to arid conditions. And indeed, this snake was longer than any ring-necked snake that I'd previously seen, and there was no water to be seen in the area.
Like many Regal Ring-necked Snakes, this one was lacking an actual ring around its neck. Kind of poorly named, really.
Diadophis punctatus vandenburghi
Monterey Ring-necked Snake
Fort Ord Public Lands, Monterey County, California—April 19, 2003
Ring-necked snakes are widespread and relatively common, but they are quite secretive so they're mostly seen by people like me who are actively looking under boards, rocks, etc. Even so, it took me several years of living in ring-necked snake territory before I finally got a photo of one. (I had seen one earlier disappearing into a crack.)
Ring-necked snakes are drab above but bright orange/red below. When cornered, they twist up tightly and flash their bright bellies. I'm not sure what survival value this has, but it presumably does them some good. This one was a small adult, at about 8 inches long.
A note on the spelling of the scientific name of this species: it's been spelled at least three different ways in various places — "vandenburghii", "vandenburgii", and "vandenburghi". Dr. Brian Crother, editor of the SSAR names list, told me in personal communication that "vandenburghi" is the correct spelling.
Fort Ord Public Lands, Monterey County, California—March 13, 2005
During 2004 I was in Florida for the entire spring ring-necked snake season, but in 2005 I made it back to Fort Ord during the right conditions and found another little beauty.
Pinnacles National Park, San Benito County, California—June 5, 2014
I came across three hikers who had paused to watch something in the nearby bushes. It turns out they had been watching this scrub jay wreaking havoc on this little ring-necked snake. The bird was grabbing the snake and thrashing it violently about, even though it looked to me like the snake was long dead.
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