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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Monterey Ring-necked Snake -
Diadophis punctatus vandenburghi

Blanchard, 1923
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Ring-necked Snake California Range Map
Range in California: Gold & adjacent Gray

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to the other subspecies



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Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake
Adult, San Luis Obispo County Adult, San Luis Obispo County Adult, Santa Barbara County
© Benjamin German
Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake
  Adult, San Luis Obispo County  
Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake
Adult © Brad Alexander Adult, Monterey County © John Sullivan
Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake
Adult, Kettleman City, western Kings County © Patrick Briggs Adult, Ventura County
© Patrick Briggs
Adult, Ventura County © Chris Lima
Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake Monterey Ring-necked Snake
Adult, Ventura County © Patrick Briggs Adult, San Luis Obispo County
© Andrew Harmer
     
Ring-necked Snakes Feeding
San Diego Ring-necked Snake San Diego Ring-necked Snake San Diego Ring-necked Snake
Ring-necked Snakes use a mild venom to subdue their prey which include snakes and lizards. This San Diego Ring-necked Snake from San Diego County regurgitated a California Legless Lizard that it had recently eaten. © Donald Schultz
  Monterey Ring-necked Snake  
  Adult Monterey Ring-necked Snake eating a Slender Salamander,  San Luis Obispo County © Andrew Harmer
 
     
Habitat
Monterey Ring-necked Snake Habitat Monterey Ring-necked Snake Habitat habitat
Habitat, San Benito County Habitat, San Luis Obispo County Habitat, San Luis Obispo County
© Andrew Harmer
     
Short Videos of Other Subspecies of Ring-necked Snakes
ring-neck snake Ring-necked Snake ring-necked snake
A Pacific Ring-necked Snake is found under a log in the woods and is filmed on an old picnic table before being released to crawl back under its log. A Pacific Ring-necked Snake is found under a board in a forest clearing and demonstrates how quickly it can move. A few brief views of a large San Diego Ring-necked snake and its habitat.
  San Diego Ring-necked Snake  
  A San Diego Ring-necked snake is released back where it was found.  
   
Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Mildly venomous. Not considered dangerous to humans. Enlarged non-grooved teeth in the rear of the upper jaw and mild venom which may help to incapacitate small prey.

Size
The typical total length of an adult Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) varies somewhat by subspecies but in general it is about 11 - 16 inches (28 - 42 cm.)
Hatchlings are much smaller and longer specimens are sometimes found.
The record length is 33-5/8 inches (85.4 cm.)

Appearance
A small, thin snake with smooth scales.
Color and Pattern
Gray, blue-gray, blackish, or dark olive dorsal coloring, with a bright orange to reddish underside, speckled with a few small black markings.
The underside of the tail is a bright reddish orange.
A narrow orange band circles the neck, 1.5 - 2.5 scale rows wide.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Secretive - usually found under the cover of rocks, wood, bark, boards and other surface debris, but occasionally seen moving on the surface on cloudy days, at dusk, or at night.
Defense
When disturbed, coils its tail like a corkscrew, exposing the underside which is usually bright red. It may also smear musk and cloacal contents.
Diet and Feeding
Eats small salamanders, tadpoles, small frogs, small snakes, lizards, worms, slugs, and insects.
The mild venom may help to incapacitate prey.
Breeding
Lays eggs in the summer, sometimes in a communal nest.

Habitat
Prefers moist habitats, including wet meadows, rocky hillsides, riparian coridors, gardens, farmland, grassland, chaparral, mixed coniferous forests, woodlands.

Geographical Range
This subspecies, Diadophis punctatus vandenburghi - Monterey Ring-necked Snake, is endemic to California, occurring along the south-central California coast from Ventura County north to southern Santa Cruz County, and inland through the coast ranges.

The species Diadophis punctatus - Ring-necked Snake, has a very wide range, occurring along the entire east coast of the United States west to the Great Lakes and southwest from there through the Midwest into Arizona, with scattered isolated populations throughout most of the western states including the western half of California, Oregon west of the Cascades, and south central Washington.

Full Species Range Map
Notes on Taxonomy
Many herpetologists no longer recognize the traditional morphologically-based subspecies of Diadophis punctatus, pending a thorough molecular study of the whole species. One ongoing study (Feldman and Spicer, 2006, Mol. Ecol. 15:2201-2222) has found all of the D. punctatus subspecies in California (except D. p. regalis) to be indistinguishable. It is likely that D. punctatus is composed of several distinct lineages that do not follow the geographic ranges of the subspecies.

The S.S.A.R. changed their spelling of "vandenburgii" to "vandenburghi" some time after their 2008 list.



In a phylogeographic analysis of the species, Fontanella, et. al. (2008) identified fourteen lineages of Diadophis punctatus. They did not recognize these lineages as separate species, pending a full taxonomic review that will require further dna sampling and evaluation including Diadophis populations in Mexico.

They recognized four distinct lineages in California, which loosely follow existing subspecies boundaries, but merge the seven subspecies into 4 groups:

* A southern California lineage, which includes the San Diego and San Bernardino subspecies, D. p. similis, and D. p. modestus

* An eastern California lineage, which includes the Coral-bellied subspecies, D. p. pulchellus, and some of the northern intergrades with D. p. occidentalis.

* A Coastal California lineage, which includes the Monterey subspecies, D. p. vandenburghi, the Pacific subspcies, D. p. amabilis, the Northwestern subspecies, D. p. occidentalis, and snakes from one region of the western Sierra Nevada currently recognized as D. p. pulchellus, along with the southern intergrades in the Tehachapi mountains region.

* A Great Basin lineage which presumably includes the Regal subspecies, D. p. regalis, found in isolated locations in the eastern Mojave.

A rough interpretation of the ranges of these four lineages is illustrated in the map below.
New Ring-necked Lineages Range Map
Red: Southern lineage
Orange: Eastern lineage
Purple: Coastal lineage      
           Light Blue: Great Basin lineage

Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Diadophis punctatus vanbdenburghii - (Stebbins 1966, 1985, 2003, 2012)
Diadophis punctatus vanbdenburghii
(Wright & Wright 1957)
Diadophis amabilis vanbdenburghii
- (Stebbins 1954)
Santa Barbara ring-necked snake
Van Denburgh's ring-necked snake (Ditmars 1936)
Western ring-necked snake (Ditmars 1907)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Diadophis Ring-necked Snakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species punctatus Ring-necked Snake (Linnaeus, 1766)
Subspecies

vandenburghi Monterey Ring-necked Snake Blanchard, 1923
Original Description
Diadophis punctatus - (Linnaeus, 1766) - Syst. Nat., 12th ed., Vol. 1, p. 376
Diadophis punctatus vandenburgii - Blanchard, 1923 - Occ. Papers Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan, No. 142, p. 5

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Diadophis - Latin - diadema - crown and Greek -ophis - snake -- "generally w/a light ring on the occipital region."
punctatus
- Latin - dotted - refers to spotted belly of species
vandenburgii - honors Van Denburgh, John

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Snakes
D. p. amabilis - Pacific Ring-necked Snake
D. p. modestus - San Bernardino Ring-necked Snake
D. p. occidentalis - Northwestern Ring-necked Snake
D. p. pulchellus - Coral-bellied Ring-necked Snake
D. p. regalis - Regal Ring-necked Snake
D. p. similis - San Diego Ring-necked Snake
C. tenuis - Sharp-tailed Snake
T. hobartsmithi - Smith's Black-headed Snake
T. planiceps - Western Black-headed Snake

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.

Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.

Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.

Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1957.

Fontanella , Frank M., Chris R. Feldman, Mark E. Siddall, & Frank T. Burbrink. Phylogeography of Diadophis punctatus: Extensive lineage diversity and repeated patterns of historical demography in a trans-continental snake. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46 (2008) 1049–1070. 2008.
Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.
Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN

 

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