Monday, October 31, 2011
One morning at the beginning of September Chloe and I were near the end of an entertaining early walk at Howarth Park. As we wound our way along the last trail before reaching pavement and the parking lot I saw something long and black stretched across the path. I stopped and bent closer to look and was delightfully surprised when the snake, for that's what it was, coiled it's tail and waved it about, revealing a brilliant orange red underside. Amazingly, the snake stayed right where it was and I sat down to spend some time in it's company. If I moved too close (and it had to be really close!) the tail would come up in a tight coil and wave about a few times then remain poised in the air until I retreated. There was a tannish band around the snake's neck, and the jet black upper part of it's body was shiny, as if wet, not what I would have expected from a snake. Chloe and I stayed about a half hour.
Ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus) are found throughout the United States and in parts of Mexico and Canada. Nocturnal and secretive, they're seldom seen during the day. They're mildly venomous but, as I found, not aggressive. The venom may help incapacitate the salamanders, worms, slugs and insects that they like to eat.
Most of the resources I found call this snake Pacific ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus amabilis). However, there seems to be some disagreement as to whether the different subspecies of D. punctatus are really different from one another.
Find out more about these shy snakes: