Brown Snake / Couleuvre brune

SPECIES ACCOUNT. Brown Snake / Couleuvre brune (Storeria dekayi)

Caroline Jamison
Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON Canada K7L 3N6

Taxonomy: Class: Reptilia. Order: Squamata. Suborder: Serpentes. Family: Colubridae. Subfamily: Natricinae. Genus: Storeria. Species: Storeria dekayi.

This common small snake is also known as DeKay’s Brown Snake after the 19th Century New York naturalist James Ellsworth DeKay. The genus name Storeria is in honour of David Humphreys Storer, an 18th Century American zoologist. Brown snakes are in the family Colubridae which includes approximately 2/3 of all snake species worldwide. The subfamily Natricinae also includes water snakes, garter snakes, and red-bellied snakes among others (King 2009, Cunningham and Burghardt 1999). Brown snakes have been separated into between 5 and 8 subspecies based largely on superficial colour characters (e.g. dorsal cross bars, labial markings – see Trapido 1944, Anderson 1961, Sabath and Sabath 1969). Trapido (1944) identified 6 subspecies, 3 of which occur north of the Rio Grande: the Northern (Storeria dekayi dekayi), the Midland (S. d. wrightorum), and the Texas (S. d. texana) Brown Snake. Since 1944 the Marsh Brown Snake (S. d. limnetes), and the Florida Brown Snake (S. d. victa), both originally classified as separate species, have been added to the list of Storeria dekayi subspecies (see Anderson 1961, Sabath and Sabath 1969, Neill 1950). There is little recent work on the taxonomy of this species and much of the taxonomy remains uncertain due to the large overlapping ranges of the subspecies, particularly between S. d. dekayi and S. d. wrightorum and between S. d. wrightorum and S. d. texana. Lack of genetic work on this species makes it hard to determine the degree of interbreeding between subspecies or detect the existence of cryptic species. It can be difficult to unequivocally identify the subspecies of an individual. Most researchers simply consider specimens at the species level.

Description: Brown snakes are small, cryptic and retiring temperate zone snakes, with an average length of 23-33 cm and rarely exceed 38 cm (Harding 1997). Body colours range from light tan or gray to dark brown. Two parallel rows of black spots run down the back, and the mid-dorsal region

Figure 1. Northern brown snake juvenile. Photo by Kat Stewart.

between these rows of spots, approximately 4 scales wide, is almost always lighter in colour than the rest of the dorsum. Spots may be obvious or inconspicuous and in some subspecies, such as the Midland and Texas Brown Snake, the spots are connected across the spine making narrow lateral bands. There may be one or two dark stripes or blotches in temporal regions (sides of the head behind the eye). These markings vary in size and shape among individuals of different subspecies (Conant and Collins 1998). Northern brown snakes have a dark bar on the anterior temporal scale and the dorsal spots are not connected by dark stripes (Fig. 1). The belly is whitish or pinkish, and may have pigmented speckling on the sides of the ventral scales (Conant and Collins 1998, Ernst and Barbour 1989).

Neonates have a light ring around the neck, thus superficially resembling ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus). However the two species are easily distinguished: ringnecks have yellow or orange bellies and smooth scales while brown snakes have whitish bellies and keeled scales (Conant and Collins 1998). Neonates are typically darker in colour than adults and the rows of dorsal spots are harder to see. Mean neonate length at birth was 75mm and 77mm for males and females respectively for specimens collected in Ottawa county, Ohio and Essex county, Ontario (King et al. 1999).

Brown snakes are sexually dimorphic species with detectable morphological differences between sexes even as neonates (King et al. 1998). Females are larger than males, but have a smaller relative head size. The proportionally greater head size in males results in a larger gape for their body size, so that despite being smaller, a male may feed on the same prey items as a larger female (King 1997, 2002). This convergence in head size between the two sexes is relatively rare in species that are dimorphic in body size because it may increase competition for prey items between the sexes (see Shine 1986). Indeed one of the hypotheses for the evolution of sexual size dimorphism is reduction in intraspecific intersexual competition for limited food items (see Rand 1952, Selander 1966). Not enough is known about the size or availability of prey items (e.g. earthworms, snails, slugs) to test for the effects of these factors on sexual dimorphism in body and head size in the Brown Snake (King 1997).

Males have longer tails and more subcaudal scales than females. Males’ tails have 46-73 subcaudals which corresponds to 23-27% of total body length, while females’ tails are 17-23% of the body length and are made up of 36-66 subcaudals (Harding 1997).  Male-biased dimorphism in tail size occurs in many snake species and it may be used as a basis for sexing individuals. The reason for the dimorphism in brown snakes is not clearly understood. In the Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), a related species, there is some evidence for the dimorphism being the result of the coupling of two factors. The first is a morphological constraint for a minimum tail length placed on males because of the space needed for hemipenes and retractor muscles. The second is the result of natural selection for increased reproductive output in females, which results in an increase in body capacity and thus a decrease in relative tail length (King 1989a). Whether these factors affect sex differences in brown snakes is unknown.

Figure 2. Distribution of Storeria dekayi in Southern Ontario. Figure from Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary Atlas (Oldham and Weller 2000).

Distribution: Brown snakes are widely distributed in North America. Their range extends from Southern Quebec West to Wisconsin and Minnesota, covering Southern Ontario and most of the Great Lakes region. Going south, the range covers the Eastern and Midwestern US to the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern half of Texas south to northeastern Oaxaca, Mexico. There are also tropical subspecies that occur from southeastern Mexico to central Honduras (Ernst and Barbour 1989).

All of the Canadian range is within a putative contact zone for the northern and midland subspecies. The Northern Brown Snake’s range extends from Southern Quebec and Ontario South to Virginia. The Midland Brown Snake can be found from Wisconsin east to the western Carolinas and south to the Gulf Coast (Ernst and Barbour 1989, Conant and Collins 1998).

In Ontario the species’ range is concentrated in the southern portion with northernmost records restricted to Manitoulin Island, the north shore of Georgian Bay, and eastward on a line running through the cities of Sudbury and North Bay (Fig. 2). At QUBS, brown snakes are found every year on trails and the edges of many of the forested tracts, typically under cover (rocks, boards, discarded tin).

Habitat: As habitat generalists, brown snakes can be found in a variety of habitat types within their large range. They live in damp wooded areas, marshes, old fields, and were once common in urban habitats such as gardens, parks, dump sites and golf courses. Their presence in cities, however, has declined in recent years perhaps due to pesticide use and other pollution. They seek cover objects such as flat rocks, logs, boards, and other debris and remain hidden under them most of the time (Ernst and Barbour 1989, Harding 1997).

During the winter months they hibernate below the frost line in mammal burrows, house foundations, and crevices. They often hibernate in groups of conspecifics or with members of other species such as garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), redbelly snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) and smooth green snakes (Opheodrys vernalis) (Harding 1997).

Ecology: Brown snakes feed primarily on earthworms, slugs, and snails but also eat other invertebrates such as beetles, insect larvae, sow bugs and spiders. Occasionally they have been documented to eat small amphibians (Rossman and Myer 1990, Harding 1997). They are nocturnal. Because they hunt at night and mostly underground, a popular hypothesis is that they locate their prey by olfaction (Harding 1997). An interesting adaptation of this species is their ability to extract snails form their shells, a skill which has evolved independently in several species of colubrids. Brown snakes do this by biting a snail’s exposed body, wedging the snail against a rock, and then applying a twisting force for approximately 10 minutes to fatigue the snail’s columellar muscle. Once this muscle is fatigued the snake can quickly extract and ingest the snail. This adaptation is largely behavioural; however certain aspects of the brown snake’s tooth and jaw morphology (e.g. long teeth and shallow, flexible maxillae) are likely to be specializations related to this adaptation (Rossman and Myer 1990). Self-grooming behaviour after eating has also been observed in this species. After contact with active or immobilized earthworms and earthworm mucus, Cunningham and Burghardt (1999) found that brown snakes and related species will rub their heads against the substrate in a specific way accompanied by occasional gaping of the mouth. Earthworms secrete an alarm pheromone when attacked, so head rubbing might help eliminate this chemical signal so that snakes can continue to hunt earthworms without being detected as easily by their prey. To a lesser degree, brown snakes also groomed after contact with slugs, so head rubbing is likely a general response to sticky substances on the face (Cunningham and Burghardt 1999).

Brown snakes hibernate throughout winter, typically returning to the same hibernaculum year after year, but may venture out on particularly warm winter days (Fisher et al 2007). They mate when they emerge from hibernation sites in April or May. Courtship involves female pheromone release. Males follow the chemical trail and engage in scramble competition when pursuing a female. They may attempt to push a rival off of a female but the interaction never escalates to combat. When a male reaches a female he flicks his tongue, positions his body alongside hers, rests his head on her neck and twists his tail around hers to grasp it (Noble 1937). The male then begins a series of wavelike muscle contractions that begin at the tail and move up the body to the head, still keeping his head on her neck. Eventually the female’s tail is lifted slightly and the male inserts a hemipenis into the cloaca and then allows himself to be dragged along by the female, still attached to her, for approximately 20 minutes (Noble 1937, Harding 1997).

Gestation lasts 100-130 days and females give birth to live young in late summer/early fall, usually in August. Average litter size is 10-14 but the maximum may be as high as 40 (Harding 1997).  There is a trade-off between offspring number and size. King (1993) found that female body size and condition are inversely related to offspring size, a counter intuitive result that may be explained by an interaction between direct effects (e.g. female body condition on number of offspring) and indirect effects (e.g. female condition on offspring size through offspring number). There is no parental care in this species, but young snakes often stay together after birth. The neonates grow rapidly and usually reach sexual maturity in 2 years (Harding 1997).

Brown snakes are eaten by wide range of predators including other, larger snakes, ground-feeding birds, hawks, crows, small mammals, and large frogs and toads (Ernst and Barbour 1989, Harding 1997). When threatened, brown snakes will attempt to flee or exhibit stationary defence behaviours such as releasing musk and feces from the cloaca and flattening the body to appear larger (Harding 1997). When placed in water, brown snakes will feign death to deter predators, likely because they are less able to flee than when on land.  Small neonates are most likely to feign death because their inferior swimming performance does not provide a good escape mechanism (Gerald 2008). However as brown snakes very rarely enter water willingly (King & Lawson 2001), this is probably a less important defence mechanism than releasing musk and fleeing.

Brown snakes are often found sharing cover objects with one or two conspecifics or with similarly sized members of other species such as redbelly and garter snakes (Noble and Clausen 1936, Gregory 2004). Neonate snakes are capable of species recognition and will preferentially share cover objects with conspecifics (Burghardt 1982). Little is known about snake aggregations not related to hibernation or breeding (Burghardt 1982). Snakes may aggregate under the same cover objects due to lack of suitable cover elements and overlapping habitat preferences between species, they may seek out social interactions, or aggregations may occur randomly (Gregory 2004). Little is known about the aggregation tendencies of brown snakes or related aspects of their ecology (e.g. territoriality, microhabitat preferences, distribution). Further research is needed in this area.

Brown snakes and other small snakes may occur at high densities and be major contributors of biomass in an ecosystem (Willson and Dorcas 2004). However, we know relatively little about the ecology of this species because they are small, nocturnal, and secretive. It is likely that there is considerable variation in life history traits (e.g. brood size, time of birth, age of sexual maturity) as well as morphological traits (e.g. length, scalation, coloration) in S. dekayi across its large range. King (1997) detected microgeographic differences in SVL, scalation, and to a lesser degree, some head dimensions (e.g. jaw length) between populations of brown snakes on the Ontario mainland, the Ohio mainland, and populations on 5 Lake Erie islands. Some of these differences may be due to demographic differences in these populations (King 1989a), but King and Lawson later (2001) estimated FST for these populations and found that there is significant population subdivision between them, and that gene flow between pairs of populations (estimated Nm) was inversely related to the distance between the populations, although this trend was not statistically significant. Studying the roles of gene flow and genetic drift in shaping brown snake populations is tricky because it is hard to get a good estimation of effective population size. To date no other work has been done to quantify gene flow in other locations, identify other distinct populations or detect geographic differences in life history traits. There are no data on the life history of this species from QUBS or from Ontario in general.

Conservation status (from the National Heritage Information Centre)
This species is not currently considered to be under threat and is common except for populations on the boundaries of its range; however its numbers in urban habitats are declining due to increasing development and presence of toxic chemicals. There are no scientific data on its population size or demography in Canada (Fisher et al 2007).


GRANK date: 10-30-1996

NRANK: N5 (nationally secure)


Ontario General Status: Secure (date: 11-1-1999)

COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada): Not at risk

Research needs: Detailed study of the postglacial history and molecular systematics of the species is needed, the latter to evaluate whether there exist cryptic species as has been found in other taxa. Despite being one of the more common species within its core range, we know relatively little about Brown Snake spatial ecology, microhabitat selection and interactions with other snake species (notably the congeneric Red-Bellied Snake with which it is often syntopic in Ontario). By extension, we really know little of variation in key life history attributes across the range of Brown Snakes and this lack of information is certainly pronounced in Ontario.

Literature and Further Reading:

  1. Ernst, C.H. and R.W Barbour 1989 Snakes of Eastern North America. George Mason University Press. Fairfax, Virginia. 282 pp.
  2. Burghardt G.M. 1983. Aggregation and species discrimination in new born snakes. Z. Tierpsychol. 61:89-101.
  3. Cunningham D. S. and G. M. Burghardt. 1999. A comparative study of facial grooming after prey ingestion in colubrid snakes. Ethology 105:913-936.
  4. Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 429 pp.
  5. Fisher, C., Joynt, A., and R. J. Brooks. 2007. Reptiles and Amphibians of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton, AB. 208 pp.
  6. Gerald G.W., and D. L. Claussen. 2004. Thermal influences on the velocity of neonate brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) during three different modes of locomotion. Int. .Comp. Biol. 44:557-557.
  7. Gerald G.W. 2008. Feign versus flight: influences of temperature, body size and locomotor abilities on death feigning in neonate snakes. Anim. Behav. 75:647-654.
  8. Gregory P.T. 2004. Analysis of patterns of aggregation under cover objects in an assemblage of six species of snakes. Herpetologica 60:178-186.
  9. Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Univ. Michigan Press. Ann Arbor, MI. 400 pp.
  10. King R.B. 2009. Population and Conservation Genetics. In Snakes: Ecology and Conservation edited by S. J. Mullin and R. A. Seigel. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY. 365 pp.
  11. King R.B. 2002. Predicted and observed maximum prey size – snake size allometry. Funct. Ecol. 16: 766-772.
  12. King R.B. 1997. Variation in brown snake (Storeria dekayi) morphology and scalation: Sex, family, and microgeographic differences. J. Herpetol. 31:335-346.
  13. King R.B. 1993. Determinants of offspring number and size in the brown snake, Storeria dekayi. J. Herpetol. 27: 175-185.
  14. King R.B. 1989a. Body size variation among island and mainland snake populations near Lake Erie. Herpetologica 45:84-88
  15. King R.B. 1989b. Sexual dimorphism in snake tail length – Sexual selection, natural-selection, or morphological constraint. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 38: 133-154.
  16. King R.B. and R. Lawson. 2001. Patterns of population subdivision and gene flow in three sympatric natricine snakes. Copeia 2001:602-614.
  17. King R.B., T. D. Bittner, A. Queral-Regil, and J. H. Cline. 1999. Sexual dimorphism in neonate and adult snakes. J. Zool. 247: 19-28.
  18. Neill, W.T. 1950. The status of the Florida brown snake, Storeria victa. Copeia 1950:155-156
  19. Noble, G.K. The sense organs involved in the courtship of Storeria, Thamnophis and other snakes. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 73:673-725
  20. Oldham, M.J. and W.F. Weller. 2000. Ontario Herpetofaunal Atlas. Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. <; (updated 15-01-2001).
  21. Rand, A.L. 1952. Secondary sexual characters and ecological competition. Fieldiana Zool. 34:65-70.
  22. Rossman D.A. and P.A. Myer. 1990. Behavioral and morphological Adaptation for snail extraction in the North American brown snakes genus Storeria. J. Herpetol. 24:434-438.
  23. Sabath, M.D. and L.E. Sabath. 1969. Morphological intergradation in Gulf Coastal brown snakes, Storeria dekayi and Storeria tropica, Am. Midl. Nat. 81:148-155.
  24. Selander, R.K. 1966. Sexual dimorphism and differential niche utilization in birds. The Condor. 68:113-151
  25. Shine, R. 1986. Intersexual dietary divergence and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in snakes. Am. Nat. 138:103-122.
  26. Willson, J.D. and Michael E. Dorcas. 2004. Aspects of the ecology of small fossorial snakes in the western piedmont of North Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist. 3:1-12.

Reviewers: Jacqueline D. Litzgus (Laurentian Univ.) and James Bogart (Univ. Guelph)

34 thoughts on “Brown Snake / Couleuvre brune”

  1. hi, my name is ray and i love snakes. i own 172 000 square feet of land in bromont quebec , i am always on the look out for snakes of all kinds. i would like to know if there is anything i can do to help learn more about the orange bellied snake and to protect from us (humans). recently i have placed rubber mats on the ground in my field near the woods and it is quite surprising how many snakes i find under these mats. if i photograph them and measure them would it help science in any way? i have yet to find a green snake, but garters, browns and sometimes racers appear. can i help?

    1. Hi Ray,

      It is wonderful to hear from you! Putting out cover boards (mats, pieces of plywood or tin) certainly is an excellent way to enhance snake density and see snakes. By orange-bellied snake do you mean the ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus), a small local snake with an orange underside and beige ring behind its head? Many people are interested in such snake sightings. For example, in Ontario we have a Natural Heritage Information Centre which acts as a warehouse for such records. If you wish to record morhological information the most important single metric is snout-vent-length, the distance from the tip of the nose to the cloacal opening. Some researchers (including myself) are interested in range-wide patterns in morphology, behaviour and genetics of particular species so certainly you might be able to contribute here. However, the most important thing you can do, truth be told, is education of your neighbours and friends as to the wonder and beauty of snakes!

  2. Hi my name is andrew and i would like to know if you can help me identify this snake that i have.i can send you a picture of the snake, its brown with black dots and has a yellow ring around its neck. i was just out camping and when i took this trail in the woods i seen something slithering so i grabed it really fast and i picked it up and it was a i kept it but no one knows what it is so im hoping you can help me with it.and please comment weather i should give you a picture of this snake.found in michigan about 4 to 5 inches long.

  3. I never knew there were Brown Snakes .. until this evening .. walking along a trail, marshes on either side, saw a pale brown snake with dark spots down the length of its back. It was the colour that intrigued me most. Met a “reptile” specialist this evening and she suggested DeKay’s Brown Snake. Looked it up on the internet, and that is most certainly the snake I saw. Rose Point Trail, just south of Parry Sound, marshes on either side. What a little “gift” to see something you never knew about!

  4. Hi
    We found a Dekay’s Brown Snake in our pool this morning in Kingston Ontario, First time I have seen one. we scooped him out and off he/ she went into the garden. It was about 7-8 inches, very slender, colour brown with dark spots and markings on the head, description as on the web.

  5. Hello,

    Readers lovely to know about this wonderful species that I have never known about.

    Thank you for the immense knowledge shared.

    I was fortunate to find one today in our garden,we put it in 30 gallon aquarium tank,filled with soil I am trying to put in its natural habitat.I think we found an female, now looking for a male I will be merry to find one.

    Love peace
    Go green

  6. Hello,
    While walking down my country driveway (between Woodstock and Embro Ont) this evening I was delighted when I spotted a beautiful small little snake about 12″-13″ long, it was a very light brown (almost tan) with spots down each side of its back and darker markings on its head.
    After taking some pictures and researching on the web I’m positive it was a Dekay’s Brown Snake.
    Lived out in the country here for 13 yrs now but the first one I’ve ever seen.

    1. That is wonderful to hear! Brown snakes are lovely, subtle and retiring creatures. There are probably more than you might think on property, under rocks and logs. Thanks very much for the comment.

      1. Hey, my name is Bruce and i live in Dayton Texas and i found a small little completely brown snake that i was wondering if it would be a good pet. My friend told me that it was a marsh brown snake and i can’t find anything about it. Can you tell me some sites to find information about this snake

  7. Hi there,

    We found a lovely little baby snake on the way home from the park in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec today. It was slithering on the sidewalk. We picked it up and decided to bring it home to do a little research, and discovered that it is a brown snake. We just measured it (from nose to cloacal opening) and it was just over 6 inches. It’s a brown-grayish colour with lighter belly. We’re going to release it back tomorrow! What a wonderful creature! :)

  8. I recently came across a midland brown snake but is actually grey with black and white spots down both sides would like to keep her “I think female from what I read so far” I had a peruvian rainbow boa for nine years that just passed away and don’t know a whole lot about them any info would really help tried to feed her what it says I think she is eating but never seen her do it do they eat everyday or are they like every other snake? P.S. I live in South Carolina.

  9. I had one of these little guys find its way into my office of all places! I don’t mind snakes, but they don’t really give me that warm and fuzzy feeling either. And I definitely wanted to get this little fellow out safe, so I managed to prod him gently into an empty recycling bin, and relocated him out to a nice wooded area with plenty of shelter.

    All creatures great and small – even if they do give me a case of the willies ;)

  10. Thank you for this excellent article. Last night we had the pleasure of seeing for the first time a Brown Snake (it was approx 25-30 cm long) on our stone steps leading to our front door. After reading the article, I now know why it was there…Snails! Snails seem to like our ‘credit valley stone’ stairway and will often climb up and spend time there. I have seen up to 10 or more snails there at a time. I’m sure the Brown Snake feels he has found a great source of food. I live in Toronto and it always amazes me… the wildlife that lives here.

  11. Hi there,

    I was at my cottage this weekend, and down in our fire pit as I was stacking logs I found three brown snakes all nestled together… I was just wondering if it is odd to find three together like that and if they are capable of doing any damage to a human if they were to bite.


    1. Brown snakes are perfectly harmless, very, very seldom bite, and even if they were to do so,would cause no damage. It is not uncommon to find multiple brown snakes under the same cover object or even to find multiple species under the same log or rock (I have found smooth green snakes and brown snakes, and brown snakes and redbellied snakes together). Thanks for your comment.


  12. In all my years I have never seen a Brown snake I happened to come across one today in Mississauga, Ontario I searched it on the net and to my amazment there it was!

  13. Well lucky me…I live in Odessa ontario and EVERY TIME i go into my basement I find one of these northern brown snakes! IThey are very small and I had to do alot of google searching to fiqure out which snake it is. Im not happy if i find these ones how many are actually hiding? Gives me the willies..i dont want them in my house can anybody give me some advice? Thanks

  14. I really enjoyed reading this article. My family owned a large acreage near Petrolia, Ontario since 1964 and I had never seen a brown snake until the summer of 2010 (which is now understandable to me seeing as they are nocturnal) . I am wondering though, why I would see many of them during mid-daytime in July/August of that year and not at other times. I cannot remember if there was any significant weather phenomena or anything else unusual at the time. They looked exactly like your image here and were very sweet and docile. Thank you for a very educational piece.

  15. I came across a mature female Dekay’s brown snake today in Oakville, ON.
    She was on a walking path near sixteen mile creek and Dundas St. I coaxed her back into the forest lest she get squashed. I see many garters but she is the first brown.

    So beautiful!

    1. Jody

      You are right. They are beautiful, and with such lovely subtle patterns. Thanks for the message!



  16. Jay, July 3rd , 2013 i,m from cardinal ontario and never seen or heard of a brown snake. Fishing along the canal , along the st- lawrence . Very much populated with browns and now not concerned when i come across them.Thx for all your info.

  17. I found a brown snake curled up under a few small toys in a metal canister in our garage this morning. I put him in a container (with holes) until my kids come home. They are going to love it! Anyway, thanks for the great pic…it is the way I was able to identify the snake.

  18. Hi All
    I saw a brown snake on my front walk way last night about 6 inch long . very cute . seems they like to hang around on walk way . I let him go once and after few hours , it was on my neighbour driveway .

  19. I too was amazed to learn about this unique tiny snake this evening. I saw one for the first time while visiting the RARE Eco Reasearch Conservation near Cambridge, Ontario. How can it be that so many of us never knew this little creature existed? I will certainly be watching more closely for them in the future, not because I have a fondness for snakes, simply out of curiosity and respect for our incredible planet.

  20. HI All, we were cottaging in Kazabazua, Quebec and my daughter picked a snake up and was bitten and bleeding not badly just a big scare. We are trying to identify the snake. The snake was swimming, it was brownish grey and had as per my daughter a brown diamond like pattern down its back. We have looked online but cannot find anything like she feels she saw. any ideas??

    1. Monique

      There are no venomous snakes in Quebec so you so not need to worry on this front. Without a photo I cannot be definitive but suspect that you have described a northern water snake. I work with snakes and over the years have been bitten many times by this (and other native, non-venomous snakes). A simple wash with soap and water or if you prefer antiseptic soap is sufficient for the bite site. Water snakes can be a bit aggressive but in truth most snakes simply perceive humans as threats and act accordingly.

      With best regards

      Steve Lougheed
      QUBS Director

  21. My son found a little brown snake on our road yesterday. It’s so tiny, and the musk it secrets smells more like grass the anything else, garter snakes smell more fishy and pungent. I was assuming this was a baby snake due to it’s size, but after reading and research, your site especially helped us identify him as a dekay. I’d like to measure him before we let him go, but he’s so small, I’m afraid I’ll hurt him. I’m wondering if there’s some kind of trick you use to strech them out and hold them still. I was also wondering if keeping him indoors over the winter would be better for his ensured survival, I’ve heard this winter is sopposed to be especially brutal. Will a snake prefer outdoor hybernation to captivity? Do they like being handled? I thought if he was a baby keeping him indoors over winter would be better for him, and he might become used to handling and thrive in captivity as a pet, being young and adaptable. If, however, he’s already an adult he may not adapt as well to the captive life. Any thoughts would be helpful. We are interested in making sure he has the longest, happiest life possible.

  22. Hello!
    I just found a photographed a small snake in a nature park on the island of Montreal and I was wondering whether I could send you photos for identification. I believe it is a Brown Snake but am not sure.
    Could you send me an email address or a form where I can attach photos?
    Thanks so much.
    Doris Potter

  23. Over 50 yrs ago, we spend summers in Rigaud, Que. Mornings I’d turn over rocks and pick a brown snake that I kept all day in my pockets returning them where found late afternoon. They were so nice! Now I’ve got land on North shore of Montreal, and found some here. These are completely brown, orange red belly with only dark marks on head. Body is pure dark brown. Smaller in size than ones from Rigaud.

  24. don’t care to much for snakes, but have small grand kids and try to keep up on what kind of snake I see and if it is poisonous. Is there a site to up load pics and get answers.

    1. Janice

      In Ontario, a good place to check would be This is not for uploading photos but provides some nice pictures for identification. In our province there is only a single truly venomous snake, the retiring massasauga rattlesnake. Hognose snakes are mildly venomous but only to their prey. If you are elsewhere there are often on-line guides and resources that eprtain to local diversity.


  25. I have a question. I have 2 Dekay’s which I found together. I have put them in a 20 gallon environment with a gravel then sand then topsoil sub straight, with live moss and a couple of live plants. Also provided objects they can hide under. They both have taken live worms. A couple of questions: 1) how often should I feed them? 2) can they hunt from the sub straight? Many of the offered worms have burrowed before the snakes recover from my intrusion and eat them, so the soil has many worms (maybe 10 to 12) living in it. Should I stop offering worms and let them hunt, or do they only eat worms that are on the surface? Thank you in advance for any in your may offer.


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