Snakes of Massachusetts
Storeria occipitomaculata (8-10", up to 16")
Both the common and scientific names for this small snake refer to characteristics that help identify it. 'Occipitomaculata' refers to three light spots located just behind the head. Redbelly generally describes the color of the underside, although the color can vary from yellow (rarely), to orange to red. The overall color of this snake is also variable, and it can be brown, bronze, slate gray or, rarely, black. Occasionally the three spots behind the head may be fused into a ring. The redbelly has keeled scales, distinguishing it from the smooth-scaled ringneck snake.
Mating may occur in spring, summer or fall, but most matings probably take place in spring after redbellys emerge from hibernation in April. Their young are born alive, typically from late July through early September, with 4-9 snakes to a brood.
Although woodlands are preferred habitats, redbelly snakes are also found in fields, bogs and wet meadows, as well as along the borders of marshes, swamps, ponds and streams. They are small and secretive snakes and spend most of their time hiding under rocks, logs, boards or debris, or within rotted stumps. Slugs make up the bulk of their diet, with earthworms, sow bugs, soft-bodied insects and small frogs also taken. Redbellys are active during the daytime in spring and fall, but restrict their activities to twilight and nighttime during the summer. When handled, redbelly snakes may curl their upper lips and show their teeth; however, they rarely bite. If sufficiently disturbed they will release musk from anal glands.