Diadophis punctatus occidentalis - Northwestern Ring-necked Snake
Not considered dangerous to humans. Enlarged non-grooved teeth in the rear of the upper jaw and mild venom which may help to incapacitate small prey.
8 - 34 inches long (20 - 87cm.) Snakes of this subspecies are adult at around 11 - 18 inches (28 -46 cm.)
A small, thin snake with smooth scales. Gray, blue-gray, blackish, or dark olive dorsal coloring, with a bright orange to reddish underside, lightly speckled with black markings, heavily speckled under the chin. The underside of the tail is a bright reddish orange. A narrow orange band around the neck, 1.5 - 3 scale rows wide.
Secretive - usually found under the cover of rocks, wood, bark, boards and other surface debris, but occasionally seen moving on the surface on cloudy days, at dusk, or at night.
When disturbed, coils its tail like a corkscrew, exposing the underside which is usually bright red. It may also smear musk and cloacal contents.
Eats slender salamanders and other small salamanders, tadpoles, small frogs, small snakes, lizards, worms, slugs, and insects. The mild venom may help to incapacitate prey.
Lays eggs in the summer, sometimes in a communal nest.
This subspecies, Diadophis punctatus occidentalis - Northwestern Ring-necked Snake, is found along the northern California coast from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, and inland through the coast ranges, and north through Oregon into southern Washington, with isoloated populations in Idaho.
The species Diadophis punctatus - Ring-necked Snake, has a very wide range, occuring along the entire east coast of the United States west to the Great Lakes and southwest from there through the Midwest into Arizona, with scattered isolated populations throughout most of the western states including the western half of California, Oregon west of the Cascades, and south central Washington.
Prefers moist habitats, including wet meadows, rocky hillsides, gardens, farmland, grassland, chaparral, coniferous forests, mixed woodlands.
Many herpetologists no longer recognize the traditional morphologically-based subspecies of Diadophis punctatus, pending a thorough molecular study of the whole species. One ongoing study (Feldman and Spicer, 2006, Mol. Ecol. 15:2201-2222) has found all of the D. punctatus subspecies in California (except D. p. regalis) to be indistinguishable. It is likely that D. punctatus is composed of several distinct lineages that do not follow the geographic ranges of the subspecies.