University of Massachusetts Amherst

Snake of Massachusetts

Snakes of Massachusetts

Brown Snake

Storeria dekayi (9-13", up to 20")

True to its name, the brown snake is dark brown to grayish brown in color. It generally has a broad light stripe bordered by dark spots down the back. The belly is pink or buff colored, sometimes with rows of small black spots. As a juvenile it has a light ring around the neck. However, unlike the ringneck snake, the brown snake has keeled scales.

Brown snakes emerge from hibernation after the ground thaws in the spring. They typically mate in spring or early summer, and 8-20 young are born alive from mid-July through August. Although they are generally forced into hibernation by November, brown snakes may emerge briefly during periods of warm winter weather.

Found in a variety of wild habitats such as wetlands, grasslands and forests, brown snakes are most often encountered in urban or residential areas. It is not uncommon to find several (or many) brown snakes under debris in vacant lots, parks and cemeteries. Earthworms and slugs are their preferred foods; however, they will also take sow bugs, insects, spiders, small fish and small frogs. They are active during the daytime in spring and fall, but are primarily nocturnal during the summer. Brown snakes rarely bite but, like most snakes, will release musk from their anal glands when alarmed.

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