Eastern Ribbon Snake

Eastern Ribbon Snake

name = Eastern garter Snake

image_caption = Photo of the Eastern Ribbon Snake
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Reptilia
ordo = Squamata
subordo = Serpentes
familia = Colubridae
genus = "Thamnophis"
species = "T. sauritus"
subspecies = "T. s. sauritus"
trinomial = "Thamnophis sauritus sauritus"
trinomial_authority =

The Eastern Ribbon Snake ("Thamnophis sauritus sauritus") is a subspecies of ribbon snake found in the northeastern United States.

Some species that are similar to the Eastern Ribbon Snake are the Western Ribbon Snake, Common Gartersnake, Plains Gartersnake, and the Butler Garter Snake. (Mayer 2003)

The subspecies to the Eastern Ribbon Snake is the Northern Ribbon Snake "T. s. septentrionalis". (Mayer 2003)


The Eastern Ribbon Snake gets its name from its very thin body. At maturity it can be anywhere from 18 to 86 cm in length. (Kingsbury 2007) It is a slender black snake with a yellow midback stripe and one on each side. A brown stripe that is 1-2 rows of scales extends onto the sides of the belly. The rest of the belly is a greenish white color. They also have two rows of black spots between the back and side stripes. It also has a long tail that is about a third of the length of its body.(Mayer 2003) The labial scales around the mouth of the snake are unmarked and uniformly bright yellow or white. A white or light yellow bar borders the front of their eyes. (Kingsbury 2007) Juveniles are colored like adults. (Towson University 2007)

Here are some aspects of the Eastern Ribbon Snake that make it different from a close relative, the Garter Snake. The Eastern Ribbon Snake has a much thinner body than a Garter Snake. It also has a tail that makes up about one third of its body length. This snake has stripes on the third and fourth scale rows. The Eastern Ribbon Snake has pure white lips and a mark of White color in front of its eyes. These characteristics make it easy to tell the difference between the snakes but it may help to have one of each on hand to look at (Crowe 2006).Eastern Ribbon Snake (below left) has a dot in front of its eye, where as the Garter Snake (below right) does not.


The Eastern Ribbon Snake is typically found in the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada. You can usually find them in wetlands and near the edges of ponds and streams. (Kenney 2007) They are comfortable both in and out of water, they are adapted to both environments. When they are frightened they take to the water or bushes.They do not dive like water snakes, they glide across the surface of the water. (Buchanan 2007)

The only parts of Canada known to have this reptile are Southern Ontario and Southwest Nova Scotia. This passage from Northeastern Naturalists focuses on finding out more about the distribution, seasonal activity, movement patterns and over-wintering sites of the Eastern Ribbon Snake. There is very little information in Nova Scotia about these topics. The entry in this book is an overview of an experiment that naturalists conducted in the Southwest part of Nova Scotia in the Kejimkujik National Park, taking place from Mid-May to Mid-November 2001. They marked 105 snakes in the area, pin pointing the areas each snake was captured and marked by using a GPS. The naturalists knew the background of the Eastern Ribbon Snake including that they are generally semi-aquatic, are found near water, and usually prey on amphibians. In order to do their study, the naturalists always had someone out in the field observing the snake as to what they ate and their living range. The experiment found that between late May and September the snakes were always found within five meters of water and lived in a five to ten square meter area. They also found that between September and mid October they would expand their range and were found as far as 173 meters away from a shoreline. From their experiment, they naturalists from Nova Scotia discovered a lot more about the Eastern Ribbon Snakes in Southwestern Nova Scotia. The most important conclusion they found was that with the low activity rate and activity range indicate that the lack of ability to expand the areas that they are found in puts these snakes in danger of local extinction. (Bell, Hermann, Wassersug pg. 279)

Eating Habits

The Ribbon Snake generally eat small fish, tadpoles, salamanders, small frogs and toads, and occasionally insects. In some cases the female has been observed eating her young. The typical time for snakes to hunt is in the morning or early evening. Once the snake has spotted its prey, it will quickly slither to catch its prey and swallow it whole. (Ohio Department of Natural Resources 2006)

Reproduction and Care of the Young

Reproduction in Eastern Ribbon Snakes takes place after they emerge from hibernation in the spring time, in April or May. Mating occasionally takes place in the fall, but the female will delay fertilization and development until the next spring. The average gestation period is three months. They average number of young is around 12 but can range anywhere from 4-27. Females give birth in late summer or maybe even the early fall. After birth there is no parental care involved, the young are left to fend for themselves. Most young reach sexual maturity after two years, but most usually wait until the third year. (Towson University 2007)


Thamnophis Sauritus Sauritus likes to stay active year around. However, when the colder months set in the snakes may be forced to hibernate. It typically hibernates in ant mounds, vole tunnels, crayfish burrows, muskrat lodges, and bank burrows. Ribbon Snakes rarely bite when handled but they do produce a foul musk from their anal glands when they feel threatened. (Buchanan 2007)


* [http://herpcenter.ipfw.edu/index.htm?http://herpcenter.ipfw.edu/outreach/accounts/reptiles/snakes/E_ribbon_snake/index.htm&2 Center for Reptiles and Amphibians]
* [http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/cbd/herpdist/species/th_sauritu.html INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection]
* [http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/speciesguide_default/easternribbonsnake/tabid/6614/Default.aspx Ohio Department of Natural Resources]
* [http://wwwnew.towson.edu/herpetology/reptiles/Thamnophis%20sauritus.htm Biological Sciences Towson University]
* [http://www.enature.com/flashcard/show_flash_card.asp?recordNumber=AR0120 Eastern Ribbon Snake]
* [http://www.umass.edu/nrec/snake_pit/pages/eribbon.html Snakes of Massachusetts]
* [http://www.gartersnake.info/articles/001690_telling_garter_snake.phtml Telling Garter Snakes and Ribbon Snakes Apart]
* [http://herpcenter.ipfw.edu/index.htm?http://herpcenter.ipfw.edu/outreach/accounts/reptiles/snakes/E_ribbon_snake/index.htm&2 Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management]
* [http://www.umass.edu/nrec/snake_pit/pages/eribbon.html UMASS Extension's Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Program]
*Northeastern Nationalist; Sarah Bell, Tom Herman, Richard Wassersug 2007

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