Description: The redbellied snake is a small woodland snake, ranging from 4 - 10 in (10 - 25 cm) long. This species is one of our most variably-colored snakes, with some individuals ranging from bright orange to brown, gray, or nearly black. Occasionally individuals are found that are gray with a brown or orange stripe down the center of the back. Many individuals have a light brown ring behind the head. This species can easily be distinguished from all other small woodland snakes by their unmarked bright orange to red underside.
Range and Habitat: Redbellied snakes are found throughout the eastern US, but are absent from peninsular Florida. This species can be found in a variety of woodland habitats but in the Coastal Plain is most common in or around the margins of small wetlands. In the Mountains they are often found in open habitats such as fields and mountain balds. Although the closely-related brown snake (Storeria dekayi) adapts well to suburban habitats, this species is usually most commonly associated with forested habitats in our region.
Habits: Redbellied snakes are generally very secretive and can be found hiding under logs, rocks, and leaf piles. They feed nearly exclusively on slugs. Redbellied snakes breed in the spring or fall and females give birth to 4 – 9 (but up to 23) young, in summer. They probably reach sexual maturity within 3 years. Research at the Savannah River Ecology Lab has shown that this species tracks the changing boundaries of wetlands as they fill and dry, probably following areas where the most slugs are found. When threatened this species rarely bites but adopts a bizarre lip-curling behavior.
Conservation Status: Redbellied snakes are common in some
areas but uncommon to rare in others. They are not protected in
most of their range, but are protected throughout the state of
Semlitsch, R. and G. Moran. 1983. Ecology of the Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) Using Mesic Habitats in South Carolina. American Midland Naturalist 111:33-40.
Willson, J. D. and M. E. Dorcas. 2004. Aspects of the ecology of small fossorial snakes in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 3:1-12.
Account Author: Kelly Overduijn, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson