Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus ssp.)
This species is very small; rarely exceeding 30cm (12in) in length. The diameter is less than that of a typical pencil. The general dorsal coloration is ranges from brown to jet black. Some seem to have a subtle greenish or bluish tint. One of the most distinguishing features is the brightly colored orange, yellow, or red ring around the neck. The underside is very brightly colored with orange, yellow, or red. There may also be a series of black dots or bars on the the belly.
There are two subspecies in the state. The Prairie Ring-necked Snake (D. p. arnyi) has numerous randomly scattered black dots on its belly and a bright red or orange undertail. The Mississippi Ring-necked Snake (D. p. stictogenys) has black dots on its belly that are paired.
This species can be found pretty much anywhere in the state where there is protective cover: loose soil, leaf litter, rotten logs, rocks, debris, etc. They seem to prefer moist environments. This is a species that will even make its home in an urban garden.
Because of their small size, this species is difficult to study under natural conditions. Mating is thought to take place in the spring or fall. A small number of eggs (rarely more than 4) are laid in the summer with hatching taking place in the fall.
Salamanders and earthworms are thought to constitute a large portion of the diet for this species. They actively forage for food at night and subdue their prey with a simple "grab and eat" technique.
This species will not bite if handled gently. They will likely release a foul-smelling musk, but this is harmless to humans. The brightly-colored belly serves as a second line of protection. It signals to a potential predator that this animal probably tastes bad or is dangerous. If highly disturbed, this species may coil its tail and flip it up to show the bright coloration underneath.
This species is highly abundant and seems resilient enough to survive even in an urban environment.