The Ringneck snake looks like the perfect pet, right?
I mean, that distinctive neck ring actually makes it look like it is already wearing a collar!
If the snake did have a collar with an up-to-date identification tag, it would tell you that the ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) is mildly venomous.
It would also tell you that it is a relatively small snake, reaching a maximum length of about 30 inches.
The attractive snake’s head is flattened and the smooth scales give the serpent a healthy glossy appearance.
Let’s dive right in with some more detail on the main question, “Is the ringneck snake venomous?” Then we’ll cover anything else you might want to know about this stunning serpent.
Table of Contents
- 1 Are Ringneck Snakes Poisonous?
- 2 A Distinctive Gold-Color Ring
- 3 A Secretive But Social Reptile
- 4 Habitat Of The Ringsnake
- 5 The Role Of The Duvernoy’s Gland
- 6 Ringnecks Are Rear-Fanged
- 7 A Nip During Breeding
- 8 The Ring-Neck As A Pet
- 9 Great Small Pet
- 10 No Mice For This Snake
- 11 Ring-Neck Snake: Final Thoughts
Are Ringneck Snakes Poisonous?
These snakes are slightly venomous. Ring-necked snakes don’t have a true venom gland. They have the Duvernoy’s gland.
This gland produces toxic saliva which is used to help the snake paralyze and subdue their prey. A person bitten by a Ringneck could suffer from some bleeding, swelling and bruising. More on this below.
A Distinctive Gold-Color Ring
The snake is fairly easy to identify because of its bright underside colorations. The snakes are solid olive, brown-black, or bluish-gray. These earthy colors help them with being camouflaged in nature.
The yellow, orange or red band around the back of the snake’s neck is a sure giveaway that it is a Ringneck. As you might imagine, it is also where it gets its common name. There are, however, some ring neck snakes that lack the distinctive neck ring.
A Secretive But Social Reptile
The small snake is somewhat secretive, perhaps because of their small size and nocturnal nature. You won’t often see this snake. You’ll sometimes spot a Ringneck during daylight hours sunning and warming itself, but they are mostly active at night. For this reason, it was thought to be uncommon.
But studies have suggested that the snake does actually exist at densities greater than 1000 per hectare. Despite their secretiveness, the snake is social and they form large colonies. A number of them will share the same microhabitat. They communicate with each other by touching and rubbing.
There are several Diadophis punctatus sub-species and they are found in southeastern Canada, most of the United States and central Mexico. This is a huge geographic range. It is one of Maine’s 9 species of non-venomous snakes. And just to show its diversity, you’ll find this snake in states like Mississippi that are the complete opposite of Maine.
Habitat Of The Ringsnake
The Ringneck snake loves leaves. It inhabits forests, woodlands, bushy areas, logs, hillsides, grasslands, rocky and moist areas. It feeds on frogs, lizards, salamanders, earthworms and other small snakes, swallowing its prey whole.
The snake uses partial constriction to subdue its meal. On the other side of the coin, the Ringneck falls prey to a variety of animals – screech owls, skunks, armadillos, possums, bullfrogs, and even other snakes. If a Ringneck is lucky and manages to avoid becoming a meal, it can live as long as 20 years.
The Role Of The Duvernoy’s Gland
There are snakes with a long strip of tissue, the superior labial gland, beneath the labial scales on either side of the head. Secretions are discharged into the furrow between the lip and gum.
The back part of the superior labial gland develops into a separate gland, and this is what is known as the Duvernoy’s gland. Mucus secretions come from the labial gland while the Duvernoy’s gland produces venom.
There are 3 types of Duvernoy’s glands – Type I, II and III, with Type I being the least harmful. You’ll find Type III glands in deadly rear-fanged snakes.
The Ringneck snake is an example of a snake that is essentially harmless but not quite non-venomous. The snake injects their venom through the teeth found in their upper jaws. Because the delivery system isn’t as developed as a true venomous snake, these snakes need to chew on their prey to inject the venom.
The Ringneck is a Colubrid snake and is considered harmless to humans. There are about 1,760 species of colubrids, and they account for about two-thirds of the world’s snakes.
Even for the venomous colubrid species, a bite unaccompanied by chewing is rarely dangerous to humans.
Ringnecks Are Rear-Fanged
While the Ringneck does have fangs at the back of their jaw, they can’t open their mouths wide enough to bite a human. They don’t even try to bite and their venom is mild.
When they come across potential predators, they expose the warning colors of their bellies. They roll their tails into a tight spiral to display the red ventral color. The ventral scales are those enlarged scales that extend down the underside of the body from the neck to the anal scale.
If this defensive tactic isn’t effective, the snake emits a foul-smelling odor. If the predator is unphased by this offensive odor, the Ringneck will try biting as a last resort.
A Nip During Breeding
Ring-neck snakes reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age. They mate mostly during spring.
The female secretes pheromones from her skin, attracting the males. He rubs his closed jaw along the length of her body, eventually giving her a solid nip on her neck ring. The female then lays her eggs some time in June.
She deposits the eggs in moist areas and they’ll hatch in August or September. She lays between 3 and 10 eggs. The eggs are white with yellow ends.
The female could not care less about the eggs, and when the hatchlings emerge, she is long gone. She has no part in their rearing. The juvenile Ringnecks take care of themselves from the word go without any help from mom (or dad).
The Ring-Neck As A Pet
The Ring-necked snake enjoys a share in the exotic pet trade market. The snake’s drawcard is its cool temperament, its interesting patterns and colors, and the fact that it has a hint of venom.
True, they can be caught in the wild, but you have to be very knowledgeable about snakes and their habits. Otherwise, a snake like this won’t survive in captivity.
If you’re looking to own this reptile as a pet, it is better to find one that has already been living in captivity, rather than capturing one from the wild. The chances of it surviving will be much higher.
The Ringneck is ideal for someone wanting a low-maintenance pet that can be accommodated in a smallish terrarium. A 10-gallon cage will be fine for your pet Ringneck Snake. You may want to add some decorative elements such as plants, branches, and a hide box.
Other items to consider to ensure your snake’s wellbeing include:
- Choose a peat moss/soil mixture with some bark strips. It should be about 2 or 3 inches deep. The soil needs to be kept partially damp. It will need to be changed 2 or 3 times a year to prevent mold and bacteria.
- An incandescent bulb above the cage is a good idea to provide your snake with heat.
- Fresh water needs to be available at all times. A good idea is to provide the enclosure with a light misting to keep the soil mixture moist.
- The temperature range for the Ringneck snake is 70 to 75° Fahrenheit. The best way to ensure the cage’s ambient temperature is comfortable for your pet is to use a basking light or a heat emitter.
Great Small Pet
This snake is perfect for someone who definitely wants a small pet snake and doesn’t want to deal with having a large enclosure in their home. They’re the type of snakes that can acclimate to many types of habitats.
However, they prefer wooded areas with lots of hiding places such as logs, leave and stones. If you choose the Ringneck as a pet, a good cave or other hiding place is an essential pet snake accessory in the enclosure.
No Mice For This Snake
In captivity, Ringnecks are considered low maintenance. They do like to hide a lot and they’re peace-loving reptiles, so they’re not going to be particularly entertaining. They can still make super rewarding pets though.
Ringnecks can actually do well with a minimal cage set up, and this is particularly good news for people who live in small spaces and who badly want a pet. In the wild, they eat lots of small invertebrates.
You can try to feed your Ringneck some insects such as crickets, although earthworms are a favorite. Feed your snake two to four times a week. This snake can’t eat mice or other rodents, which is appealing to some. Read What Do Ringneck Snakes Eat? for more.
Ring-Neck Snake: Final Thoughts
Many people are fascinated by snakes. They’re not able to keep a dog or cat but they definitely want a pet.
Snakes make awesome pets, but to keep any wild animals, you need to apply for a permit. You also need to know something about the reptile – whether it is venomous or not and whether it is likely to bite or not.
You’ll also need to know that snakes battle to adapt to a new environment, and that is why knowledge of the snake you’re going to keep as a pet is imperative. The enclosure has to be as natural as possible.
All of these potential issues make the Ringneck snake popular as a pet, because it is easy to keep, where other species are more difficult. The snake’s, small size, its non-aggressive nature, its reluctance to bite and the fact that it is essentially non-poisonous make it popular to keep at home. It is suited for children too.
You keep making reference to being poisonous. Snakes are not poisonous, they are venomous and one needs to know what the venom does to your body if you are bitten. There is Hemotoxic and the other is neurotoxic. To hear people talk about poisonous snakes just tells me they are not as knowledgeable as they should be about snakes.
Jackson hildreth says
Thank you. That drives me insane
Snakes are wild animals and honestly rather they’re born in captivity or in the wild they are still wild. And any snake should not be kept by children. In spite of the “low maintenance” of this snake it is still a huge responsibility. I caught a baby today that got on my porch kept it for 5 min and set it free. And so I stumbled on this post while looking the species up. No animal should be caught and kept unless it’s an emergency and even then unless you have knowledge of what you caught it should not be captured.
Joe Pawlowski says
Back in late 60s, 5th grade, while walking home from school, I picked up a “worm” (I thought). It bit me, so I knew then it wasn’t a worm! I dropped it and hurried home scared. You see, my parents taught that ALL snakes were “poisonous.” I went to bedroom, curled up on floor crying, waiting to die. I didn’t die!?! So I got mad at parents. Went to school library next day to learn about snakes. Back then it wasn’t published that Ringneck snakes were “venomous.” Fast forward to 1973, I worked at Silver Springs, FL. I caught an Eastern Diamondback outside the back maintenance gate. Maintenance workers lead me through the crowded gift shop that was the entrance to Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute. As a result, I got to meet Ross Allen himself, the next day. He’d been hunting rattlers. He bagged an extremely rare Eastern Diamondback that had 3 rows of yellow scales bordering the diamond. It was an awesome 5 1/2 foot specimen! He gave me tour of venom lab. And, I helped resolve the problem of one of their 27 coral snakes that kept getting out of its container.
That incident with the Ringneck snake, and my subsequent personal studies and experiences with snakes, helped me overcome the serious fear I once had – a fear instilled by ignorant parents. I even kept a mole king snake hidden in my wall locker couple days back in the Marine Corps in 1977. A bad Marine, known to be a drug pusher, was so afraid he stayed away from barracks (he eventually was punished for his drug crimes). He was such a “tough street thug” from NY city. But that snake kept him from coming within 25 feet of that barracks!
Now, after all these years I’ve recently learned that the Ringneck was indeed venomous. So I have been bitten by a venomous snake. Just glad it was harmless though! I’ve picked up a few over the years that did not bite. But never knew they were venomous. I have had wild black rat snakes, garter snake (which gave live birth to 15 babies), and prairie king snake as “pets.” Prairie king snakes don’t tame as well as rat snakes and garter snakes. I was able to hand feed worms to garter snake. The rat snakes and king snake liked to eat live mice and baby chicks.
Thanks for your article. Makes me want to go find a Ringneck to keep as a pet.
Joe “Gunny Ski” Pawlowski
USMC 1974-80 & 2003-09 (OIF 07)
I enjoyed reading your story!
Roy Brummell says
By what various means can one keep away snakes for specific areas on his property?
but what will it do to a puppy that bites it?