Northern Ribbon Snake


Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis
Size: 6.3 – 9.4”
Status: Common to abundant in appropriate habitat, but can become rare at edge of range.

Northern Ribbon Snake



Found along edges of lakes, ponds, bogs, streams, and marshes, especially where low vegetation occurs. Prefer sunny sites. Sometimes found in open swamps or near woodland ponds.

Adult Coloration:

Three yellow, greenish yellow, or white stripes on a dark brown or black background. Central stripe sometimes brown or tan. Light side stripes on scale rows 3 and 4 and brown stripe below on scale rows 1 and 2. Light bar in front of eye and upper labial scales (along mouth) bright white or pale yellow. Occasionally two light spots on large scales at the back of the head. Belly solid pale green, yellow, or white.

Adult Characteristics:

Long, slender snake with a very long tail that is equal to at least a quarter and sometimes one-third of the total length. Head wider than neck, eyes large. Scales keeled (ridged), anal plate undivided.

Juvenile Characteristics:

Newborns average 6.3 – 9.4” in length and are colored like adults.

Scale Count:

19 scale rows at midbody

Species Confused With:

This species is much thinner and has a much longer tail than similarly striped garter snakes, with Easterns having side stripes on scale rows 2 and 3 and Butler’s having stripes on rows 2 through 4.


  • Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region by Jim Harding
  • Harding, J.H. and J.A. Holman. 2006. Michigan Snakes. MSU Extension Ext. Bulletin E-2000,74 pp. [revised].
  • Ruthven, A. G., H. B. T. Gaige, et al. 1912. The herpetology of Michigan, by Alexander B. Ruthven. Crystal Thompson and Helen Thompson; Memoranda towards a bibliography of the archaeology of Michigan, by Harlan I. Smith; prepared under the direction of Alexander G. Ruthven. Lansing, Mich., Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford, State Printers.
  • Holman, J. A. 2012. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan: A Quaternary and Recent Faunal Adventure. Detroit, Mich., Wayne State University Press.
  • Conant, R., and Collins, J. T. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern, Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press.