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Rainbow Snake

Farancia erytrogramma erytrogramma

The rainbow snake has a bluish-black back with three red stripes running lengthwise. (Alan Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
The rainbow snake has a bluish-black back with three red stripes running lengthwise. (Alan Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)

The rainbow snake is beautifully colored, non-venomous snake that lives in streams, swamps and marshes in southern Maryland and eastern Virginia.

Appearance:

  • Glossy, iridescent body
  • Bluish-black back with three red stripes running lengthwise
  • Red or pink underside with 2-3 rows of black spots
  • Yellow tint on the head and sides
  • Short tail with a sharp tip
  • Usually grows 3-4 feet long

Habitat:

  • Lives primarily in streams, swamps and marshes
  • Often stays hidden under floating vegetation or debris in the water, as well as within stream banks
  • May also burrow into moist sand or mud on land
  • Nocturnal and very secretive

Range:

  • In the Chesapeake Bay region, found in southern Maryland and eastern Virginia

Feeding:

  • Adults only eat eels
  • Young may also eat small frogs and tadpoles
  • Eats its prey by swallowing it headfirst

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Creates a nest, where the female lays about 20 eggs in July
  • The female protects the nest until the eggs hatch in late summer or autumn

Other Facts:

  • Scientific name comes from the Greek erythro meaning “red” and gramma meaning “line.”
  • Also known as eel moccasins because they like to eat eels
  • Strong swimmer
  • Rainbow snakes are not aggressive and rarely bite if captured.
  • Listed as an endangered species in Maryland

Sources and Additional Information:


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