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

Appearance:

The rainbow snake grows to 3 to 4 feet long, with a glossy, iridescent body. It has a bluish-black back with three red stripes running lengthwise, and a red or pink underside with 2 to 3 rows of black spots. There is a yellow tint on its head and sides. It has a short tail with a sharp tip.

Habitat:

Primarily 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. 

Range:

Found in southern Maryland and eastern Virginia.

Feeding:

Rainbow snakes eat their prey by swallowing it headfirst. Adults eat only eels. Young may also eat small frogs and tadpoles. 

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Rainbow snakes create nests, 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:

  • Their scientific name comes from the Greek erythro meaning “red” and gramma meaning “line.”
  • Rainbow snakes are also known as eel moccasins because they like to eat eels.
  • They are nocturnal and very secretive. However, they are not aggressive and will rarely bite if captured.
  • Rainbow snakes are listed as an endangered species in Maryland.

Sources and Additional Information:


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