No status assigned in Minnesota.
This is Minnesota's smallest species of snake measuring 7-10 inches long (Conant and Collins, 1991). It is nonvenomous. Generally speaking, there are two color phases of this snake and even these are subject to variation. The first is dark brown to light tan dorsally with a single light mid dorsal stripe. The other phase is a shade of gray dorsally with four black or rust red stripes running lengthwise down the snake. The following characteristics are shared by both: the belly is usually bright red or pink with no markings. There may or may not be three pale spots on the nape. The scales are keeled and the anal plate is divided.
There are three subspecies of the redbelly snake, two of which supposedly occur in Minnesota. The northern redbelly snake, Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata, differs only by the presence of three light spots on the nape. The other, the Black Hills redbelly snake, Storeia occipitomaculata pahapsae, lacks these spots. These subspecies intergrade throughout Minnesota. Furthermore, these subspecies are weakly defined and both variations are found in the same populations outside the intergrade zone.
In Minnesota this snake seems to occur statewide in suitable habitats. It is one of only a few snakes to live in extreme northeastern Minnesota.
This snake is generally considered a woodland snake, but it is often found in dry sandy habitats as well in Minnesota. It is oftern found near marshes, lakes, or other water sources. Its main defense is hiding from predators under rocks or logs or leaf litter.
This small snake may be found by turning flat objects or crawling across woodland trails in the evening or at night. Sometimes they may be found in garages or while moving a woodpile. Great numbers of these snakes are seen in the fall as they migrate to their hibernaculums in the fall. They make no attempt to bite when handled, but they may release musk which is relatively mild compared to other species of snakes. They hibernate underground in rock crevices, abandoned ant mounds, and in burrows dug by other animals. They breed in spring. Five to eight young are born alive in late summer and are very small only 3 1/2 inches long.
The redbelly snake eats slugs, earthworms, and insect larvae. It is usually very difficult to get these snakes to consume anything other than slugs without using scent-transfer techniques.