Description: Queen Snakes are mid-sized – to 24 in (61 cm) – somewhat slender, aquatic snakes that are most common in flowing waters of the Piedmont and mountains of the Southeast. Both adults and juveniles are generally grayish in coloration but may range from light brown to olive green. There may be three faint darker stripes running down the body. Two lighter (whitish or yellowish) stripes run down the sides. The belly is also yellowish with four brown stripes (two down the center, one along each side) and may have two faint lighter stripes running down the center of the back. Scales are keeled. This species lacks the “bug-eyed” appearance of Glossy and Striped Crayfish Snakes. Females are substantially larger than males.
Range and Habitat: Queen snakes range throughout Piedmont and mountainous regions of the eastern US, from the Great Lakes to central Louisiana. In our region, this species is common in the mountains and some regions of the Piedmont and its range extends along some river drainages into the Coastal Plain.
Queen snakes are most common in and around running water (streams and rivers), but are occasionally found in lakes or other aquatic habitats. They are often prevalent in rocky habitats with an abundance of crayfish.
Habits: Queen snakes are highly aquatic but are less secretive than other crayfish snakes. They can often be observed along streams and rivers basking on rocks or streamside vegetation, often alongside northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon). Queen snakes also often take refuge under rocks along streams edges. Like their close relatives the crayfish snakes, queen snakes feed primarily on crayfish. However, unlike glossy and striped crayfish snakes, queen snakes generally avoid hard-shelled crayfish, restricting their diet to soft, newly molted crayfish. Queen snakes are primarily active during the day and are occasionally found crossing roads near aquatic habitats at dusk. Mating occurs in the spring and females give birth to 5 – 23 live offspring in the late summer.
Conservation Status: Queen snakes are common in the Piedmont and mountains and are not protected in our region. However, observations suggest that this species may have declined in many areas of the Piedmont, presumably due to siltation and channelization of small streams. Maintenance of clean, rocky streams and rivers, so that an abundance of crayfish remains, is critical for this species.
Account Author: J.D. Willson