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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:

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 2-3 rows of black spots. There is a yellow tint on its head and sides. It has a short tail with a sharp tip.

Habitat:

These snakes live primarily in streams, swamps and marshes, often staying hidden under floating vegetation or debris in the water, as well as within stream banks. They may also burrow into moist sand or mud on land. They are nocturnal and very secretive.

Range:

In the Chesapeake Bay region, they are found in southern Maryland and eastern Virginia.

Feeding:

Rainbow snakes eats 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:

  • 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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