Red-Bellied Snake

Scientific name: Storeria occipitomaculata

Mi’kmaq Translation: Měgwaskŭdeât’

French Translation: Couleuvre à ventre rouge

Gaelic Translation: Nathair brù-dearg (no clag ruadh)

Physical Description

Red-bellied snakes get their name from their distinctive belly colour, a bright red orange to orange. They have variations of a brown or grey colour on top, along with two dark stripes down the back and two along the sides. You may also see a lighter row of spots around the neck that can fuse to form a partial ring. The dorsal scales are keeled, which means they are ridged down the center of the back.

Size

Young Red-bellied Snakes measure 7-11cm in length

Adult males measure 20-30cm in length

Adult females measure 19-31cm in length

Range and Distribution

In Canada, Red-bellied snakes range from southeastern Saskatchewan east to Nova Scotia, with a break in the distribution north of Lake Superior. These snakes are common across Nova Scotia but not often seen.

Habitat

These snakes are generally found in forest clearings, and fields and meadows that have abundant ground cover. They often hide in dark crevices during the day, like under rocks and logs. Red-bellied snakes overwinter below the frost line in mammal burrows, rock crevices and other cavities.

Diet

Red-bellied snakes are a nocturnal species, that feed primarily on invertebrates like earthworms, snails, grubs, and insects. They also eat slugs, who damage plants and crops, making them an ideal friend for gardeners are farmers.   

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Breeding occurs in the spring. Females can bear up to 15 live young, born from mid-August to mid-September. Juveniles mature in two years, although little is known about their longevity.

Status

SARA: Of Least Concern

COSEWIC: Not Assessed

Threats

Red-bellied snakes are a food source for larger snakes and raccoons and are occasionally hunted by domesticated cats. These snakes also face habitat loss and road mortality as threats to their population. They are somewhat tolerant of small disturbances and changes to their habitat.