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Wild About Illinois Snakes! - Family Dipsadidae

​Unless otherwise noted, photos © Scott Ballard. No photographs included within this information may be used on the internet, publications or any other form of media without the photographer's express permission. All rights reserved.
 
 
eastern wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus) Photo © Scott Ballard
The eastern wormsnake averages seven and one-half to 11 inches in length. It has a sharp spur on the end of the tail. The back is brown, and the belly is pink. The body is slick with smooth scales. The head is pointed.
 
The eastern wormsnake lives in bluffs, rock outcrops, dead trees and moist ground in wooded areas. This snake is almost never found in the open. It is frequently discovered under rocks or boards, in rotting logs or in the soil. It moves far underground in dry weather. A spur on the end of the tail is used as a defense against predators. It may breed in spring or fall. One to six eggs are deposited in soil or under rocks in June or early July. Eggs hatch in August. The eastern wormsnake eats earthworms and soft-bodied insects. It lives in the southern one-half of the state.
 
 
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western wormsnake (Carphophis vermis) Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.
The western wormsnake (7.5 to 11 inches) is purple-black on the back with a  red-pink belly.  The belly color extends up to third row of scales on each side. The head is pointed. Scales are smooth. The anal plate is divided. The tail has a hard, pointed tip.
 
This species lives in woodlands or rocky hillsides where it burrows under logs, rocks and in moist soil. It is active March through October but may aestivate in periods of hot, dry weather. Wormsnakes eat earthworms and insects. They may breed in spring or fall. One to six eggs are laid under rocks or in soil in June and July. The eggs hatch in August. It lives in counties along the Mississippi River in west-central Illinois.
 
 
 
ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) Photo © Scott Ballard
The ring-necked snake averages 10 to 15 inches in length. It is a slender snake with a dark back and a yellow belly. A light ring is present around the neck. Scales are smooth.
 
The ring-necked snake lives in woodlands or hilly prairie areas with rocks, logs or rotting trees. This snake is secretive, most often found under rocks, bark or logs. It is active at night. The ring-necked snake overwinters in rock crevices or in the soil. It may secrete a foul smell when captured. Its tail curls into a corkscrew when threatened. Mating season occurs from March through April. About one to 10 eggs are deposited by the female in June or July among rocks or rotting logs. The eggs may be placed in a communal nest, where others of the same species also lay their eggs. Hatching occurs in August or September. The ring-necked snake eats small salamanders and snakes, insects, earthworms, slugs and frogs. In Illinois, it may be found in the southern one-half of the state and in the counties bordering the Mississippi River.
 
 
 
red-bellied mudsnake (Farancia abacura) Photo © Scott Ballard
The red-bellied mudsnake averages 40 to 54 inches in length. It has smooth, shiny scales. The back is black while the belly has alternating red and black bars with the red bars extending onto the lowest scale rows. The tip of the tail is sharp.
 
The red-bellied mudsnake lives in shallow ponds, sloughs, swamps and lowlands. It is active at night, hiding under a log or in a burrow in the day. It prefers areas with many rotten or water-soaked logs. It may press the blunt tail end into your hand if you try to pick up the snake, which is why it is sometimes called the "stinging snake." Its habit of lying in a loose coil resulted in the name and fable of the "hoop snake." Mating occurs in the spring. The female deposits 11 to 50 eggs in rotten wood or in animal burrows in early July. The female stays with the eggs until they hatch in August or September. This snake eats aquatic salamanders, other amphibians and fishes. The Illinois range fort his species is in the southern one-fourth of the state.
 
 
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plains hog-nosed snake (Heterodon nasicus)* Photo © Scott Ballard
The plains hog-nosed snake averages 15 to 25 inches in length. Its snout is upturned with a ridge on top. The belly is black. The scales are keeled (ridged). The body is gray-tan with brown blotches.
 
The plains hog-nosed snake lives in sand prairies. It is a slow-moving, terrestrial snake. It uses mammal burrows to remain underground in cold or wet weather. This snake flattens its head and neck, hisses and inflates its body with air when disturbed, hence its nickname of "puff adder." It may also vomit, flip over on its back, shudder a few times and play dead. The upturned snout is used to help dig prey items out of sandy soil. Mating may occur in spring or fall. The female lays from four to 23 eggs in sand in late spring or early summer. Eggs hatch in August or September. The plains hog-nosed snake eats amphibians, especially toads, lizards, mammals and ground-nesting birds. It lives in sand prairies in the northern one-half of the state.
 
 
 
eastern hog-nosed snake (Heterodon platirhinos) Photo © Scott Ballard
The eastern hog-nosed snake averages 20 to 33 inches in length. Its snout is upturned with a ridge on the top. Body color varies. The snake may be yellow, brown, gray, olive, orange or red. The back usually has dark blotches but may be plain. A pair of large dark blotches is found behind the head. The underside of the tail is lighter than the belly. Scales are keeled (ridged).
 
The eastern hog-nosed snake lives in areas with sandy or loose soil, such as floodplains, old fields, woods and hillsides. It is active in the day. It may overwinter in an abandoned small mammal burrow. This snake flattens its head and neck, hisses and inflates its body with air when disturbed, hence its nickname of "puff adder." It may also vomit, flip over on its back, shudder a few times and play dead. The hognose snake will excrete large amounts of foul-smelling waste material if picked up. Mating season occurs in April and May. An average of 15 to 25 eggs may be deposited by the female under rocks or in loose soil in June or July. Hatching occurs in August or September. This snake eats toads and frogs. It can be found statewide in Illinois.
 
* = threatened in Illinois
** = endangered in Illinois