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Northern Redbelly Snake

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Is the Northern Redbelly Snake right for you?

Species group:

Scientific name: Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata

The basics:
This attractive little snake is not often kept due to its secretive ways. It is not a good choice for folks seeking a “hands-on” pet, but is very interesting and in need of attention from breeders.

The Northern Redbelly Snake inhabits a huge portion of North America, but generally remains undetected because of its small size and secretive ways. It ranges across much of southern Canada and through most of the USA east of the Rocky Mountains to Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

The Redbelly Snake frequents overgrown fields, cut-over woodlands, brushy prairies, swamps, forest edges, and suburban yards, wherever adequate cover (rotting logs, stones, boards and bark slabs) is available. It even manages to survive in parks within NYC and other urban areas.

Appearance / health:
Slender in build, the Redbelly Snake averages a mere 7.5 -16 inches in length. Its upper surface may be black, gray or reddish brown in color, while the belly is yellow, pink, bright red or, rarely, gray. The neck is encircled with white spots, which sometimes join to form a collar.

Redbelly Snakes fare poorly in bare, dry terrariums, and may be subject to stress-induced ailments if handled frequently.

Behavior / temperament:
On the menu of predators ranging from bullfrogs to skunks and feral cats, these diminutive are shy and always on guard. When disturbed, they release musk, and may feign death. They rarely bite, and in time may adjust to short periods of gentle handling.

Housing:
A single Redbelly Snake can be kept in a 10 gallon aquarium, while a 20 gallon will support 2 - 4 adults. Unlike most snakes, they do not fare well on newspapers, aspen shavings or similar substrates. Their terrarium should instead be furnished with a mixture of dead leaves, sand and peat moss. The tank must have moist areas such as a cave stocked with damp sphagnum moss. Dry sections should also be available, as constant dampness will encourage fungal skin disorders. Due to their small size, Redbelly Snakes are ideal inhabitants of naturalistic terrariums provisioned with live plants.

Even by snake standards, Redbellies are escape artists, and can squeeze through incredibly small openings; the tank’s screen lid should be secured by 6-8 cage clips. Ambient temperature: 70-76 F; Basking temperature: 80-82 F

Diet:
Field studies indicate that slugs comprise much of the natural diet, but earthworms, beetle grubs, and tiny woodland salamanders are also taken. Pets do fine on a base diet of earthworms, waxworms and butterworms; beetle grubs and slugs should also be offered when available. A calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement should be used twice weekly, and a shallow water bowl should be available.

Breeding:
Captive breeding of these pretty little snakes is rare, but that is due more to a lack of interest than any difficulties involved. Sexual maturity is reached by age two. Wild females produce 1-21 live youngsters in late summer or autumn. The slender, 4-5 inch long youngsters feed upon grubs, slugs and small earthworms. A short cooling off period and reduced light cycle may encourage pets to reproduce.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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