The Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) is a very slender snake measuring 16 to 35 inches. It has three yellow or greenish stripes running down the surface on scale rows three and four. The tail (starting at the cloaca and ending at the tip) is long and thin and measures 1/3 the length of the body. It is often confused with the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). They are usually found near aquatic habitats, have relatively small home ranges, and rarely move more than 16 feet from water. Threats to this species include mortality from vehicles on roadways, disease (snake fungal disease), and development near wetland habitats. It is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in all six states in BCR 14.

Habitat Needs

Being semi-aquatic, Eastern ribbon snakes are found near emergent marshes, wet meadows, scrub-shrub wetlands, beaver impoundments, bogs, river and stream floodplains, and vegetated shorelines of ponds and lakes. They will use muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) bank burrows and lodges, ant mounds, mammal tunnels, and rock crevices for winter hibernacula.

Habitat Management Practices

Seasonal avoidance (March 1st to October 30th) with forestry and agricultural machinery like the habitat management practices for Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) and wood turtles (Gyptemys insculpta) may reduce mortality. Machinery or vehicles should be restricted to 300 from rivers, wetlands, lakes and ponds where they are known to occur.


Bell, S. L. M., T. B. Herman, R. J. Wassersug. 2007. Ecology of Thamnophis sauritus (Eastern Ribbon Snake) at the northern limit of its range. Northeastern Naturalist. 14(2):279-292.

Marchand, M. 2015. Eastern ribbon snake. Pages A103-A108 in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, NH Fish & Game Department, Concord, NH.

Additional Information

Forest Types