Ringneck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus):

Hints on Care and Feeding

by Donald L. Blanchard

Morrison Natural History Museum
501 Highway 8
Morrison, Colorado 80465, USA
museum@town.morrison.co.us

Ringneck Snakes are shy, secretive, and totally harmless snakes, that rarely exceed 12" to 18" in length. In the wild, they generally prefer moist, woodland habitats, burrowing into soft soil or leaf litter, or hiding in rotting logs. They are found over most of the United States, but distribution is more spotty in the west. In Colorado, they are known to occur only in the southeastern portion of the state. They feed on earthworms and small invertebrates; larger individuals have been known to eat worm salamanders, lizards, and even other smaller snakes. In captivity, I have found a steady diet of earthworms to be wholesome and nourishing.

(N.B.: Ringneck snakes have been reported by others to be difficult feeders, requiring exclusively a diet of salamanders and smaller snakes. This may be true of animals from some geographical areas. I don't know. All I can report is my own personal experiences with these delightful animals. Our animals were pet store purchased, and probably came from Florida. --dlb)

Ringneck snakes make endearing, if somewhat reclusive, pets. A 10 gallon aquarium is ample to house one or two snakes. I highly recommend one with a built in sliding screen top. The snap-on screen tops don't fit tight enough, and if a snake ever succeeds in reaching the top (and a large one just might), it could probably go right through the gap around the edges. I have had good results with a substrate of approximately 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 fine play sand, and 1/3 soil (from emptied worm containers), spread 1 to 1 1/2" deep. The substrate should be kept moist; in Colorado (at 5800' elevation and low humidity) it needs to be sprayed almost daily. We also provide a water dish - about 3" dia by 1" deep, and some sphagnum moss for them to hide under. If the substrate is kept loose, they will generally burrow into it.

I prefer to feed ringneck snakes by hand, although earthworms would probably do quite well if allowed to live in the substrate recommended above. Feeding snakes by hand allows us to keep track of how much each snake is eating (we have two), and helps to keep them tame and handleable by forming an association between hands and food. It also insures that the snakes not ingest substrate materials. I hold a snake in one hand, allowing it to curl around my fingers, and 'show' it a worm in the palm of the other hand. When the snake bites the worm, I continue to hold it until the worm is fully ingested; this is also to avoid ingestion of substrate. Our ringnecks will generally take 2 to 4 small worms twice a week, but will frequently refuse food for a week or more before going into a shed.

We have never tried breeding ringneck snakes (I'm not even sure of the sexes of our two), but it has been reported that they lay 1 to 6 eggs, typically in June or July. In the wild, it is reported that several females may deposit eggs in the same nest.

File Created June 2, 1997; last updated May 3, 1998.

Prepared by Donald L. Blanchard, <don@WebSpinners.com>
on behalf of the Morrison Natural History Museum