Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus)

A hand holds a coiled ringneck snake
A biologist holds a ring-necked snake.  (Joel Sauder - Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game )
Category: Reptiles
Ecosystems: Shrubsteppe Riparian areas
Vulnerability to climate change (More details)

Low-
Moderate

If you see this species, please share your observation using the WDFW wildlife reporting tool or email us at  wildlife.data@dfw.wa.gov. Be sure to include a photo of the species for verification and location (latitude/longitude coordinates) of your observation. 

Little is known about the current status of the ring-necked snake in Washington. The state status is based on the small number of observations, patchy distribution, and lack of information. Some of the distribution is in the Columbia Basin, which is a heavily altered region of the state heavily impacted by agriculture. 

Description and Range

Physical description

This is a small, dark (slate gray to greenish gray) harmless snake with shiny scales and an orange band or “ring” around the neck. The underside is bright orange. These snakes rarely exceed about 22 inches in the Northwest; they typically are around 4 to 6 inches in length. See the Washington Herp Atlas for more details about this species.

Ecology and life history

Based on collection and observation records, ring-necked snakes occur in ponderosa pine-Oregon white oak, mixed forest, and shrubsteppe. Occurrences in shrubsteppe are often associated with riparian areas. Ring-necked snakes are secretive and rarely surface active during the day. They are usually found under woody debris, rocks or on roads at night. 

They feed on earthworms, small salamanders and slugs as well as sometimes small lizards, small frogs and juvenile snakes.

Females deposit three to ten eggs per year in June or July. Eggs are deposited in moist locations like stabilized talus and rotting logs.

Similar to other snake species in Washington, ring-necked snakes are likely active from March through October varying somewhat from year to year and by location.  

Geographic range

The main distribution of this species in Washington follows the east slope of the Cascade Mountains from the Ellensburg area south to the Columbia Gorge and west to Longview. They also occur along the eastern portion of the Snake River. Distribution is likely continuous between the Klickitat and Yakima Counties but there are no records in WDFW’s database to support this. Isolated records of individual snakes were collected in Whitman County in 1937 and 1938; Walla Walla County in 1975; and two locations in Cowlitz County (Kalama and the confluence of Mill Creek and the Columbia River) in 1959 and 1982, respectively. Observations for this species are rarely submitted to the WDFW database and no studies have been conducted in Washington. Consequently, nothing is known about the status or abundance of this species. 

For worldwide distribution of ring-necked snake and other species' information, check out NatureServe Explorer and the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List

Climate vulnerability

Sensitivity to climate change

Low-
Moderate

Overall, there is a lack of information regarding sensitivity of the ring-necked snake to climate change. Distribution in shrubsteppe is poorly understood largely because of lack of survey effort, however, it is suspected that Individuals that occurrence in shrubsteppe habitats are often associated with riparian areas, and may have higher sensitivity due to habitat drying or altered fire regimes that degrade or eliminate habitat because the current condition of riparian habitats across shrubsteppe landscapes are already generally quite spotty.

Confidence: Low

Exposure to climate change

Moderate

  • Changes in precipitation (rain and snow)
  • Altered fire regimes

Conservation

This species is identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) under the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). SGCN-classified species include both those with and without legal protection status under the Federal or State Endangered Species programs, as well as game species with low populations. The WDFW SWAP is part of a nationwide effort by all 50 states and five U.S. territories to develop conservation action plans for fish, wildlife and their natural habitats—identifying opportunities for species' recovery before they are imperiled and more limited.

Conservation Threats and Actions Needed

Conservation threats to the ring-necked snake include a lack of information on its status and distribution. Conservation actions needed to address this threat is to research, survey and monitor this species to understand its status, distribution, and habitat needs.

See the Climate Vulnerability section for information about the threat posed by climate change to this species. 

Resources

WDFW Publications

Other