If you are considering purchasing a snake to keep as a pet, a ringneck snake (also spelled ring-neck) may be the right choice for you. Even at full maturity, these snakes do not grow longer than 15 inches so they don’t require a lot of space. They’re also pretty cute and easy to care for.
Ringneck snakes can survive on a diet of insects so pet owners who are a bit squeamish won’t have to worry about sacrificing any small rodents to keep their snakes fed. Ringneck snakes are beautiful reptiles who are perfectly happy in smaller enclosures. They won’t take up a lot of space in your home. They do like to hide, but they will grow accustomed to handling over time.
If you have your heart set on a cold-blooded pet and are considering a ringneck snake, there are some things you should know about them. What to feed them, how to handle them, and if they are aggressive or not are just a few of the questions people ask. Read on to find out the answers.
Are Ringneck Snakes Good Pets?
Some people prefer large snakes such as pythons and boas while others prefer snakes of a much more manageable size. The ringneck snake is a good candidate in the small snake category as they don’t grow much longer than one foot in length. Many snake owners claim that the ringneck snake is small enough to be kept in a shoebox with a paper towel lining, but your snake will be much happier in a terrarium with soil, sand, or peat moss.
Ringneck snakes are a part of the colubrid family and are considered harmless. They like to hide and will burrow down under the linings of their terrarium or under any objects placed in their terrarium. This is why heavy objects that can easily topple over should not be put in their containers as it can cause them injury or even kill them.
They can be taken out of their container and held but they are pretty squirmy little guys. At least at first. Frequent handling will get them used to human contact but their natural inclination will be to escape if possible. Their terrarium should be covered with wire mesh to prevent this from happening.
Ringnecks are commonly found throughout the North America continent. They are very shy reptiles. They are also nocturnal creatures which means they prefer to sleep during daylight hours. They are also crepuscular which means they are most active in the twilight hours. Their instinct to hide from predators combined with their small size makes them very rare to see in the wild.
Ringneck snakes prefer a moist environment like the soil commonly found along rivers, ponds, and streams. They are not swimmers though, and you won’t find them in the water. Ringneck snakes like to hide under stones, leaf litter, and bark coverage. They prefer an escape route to outright conflict and seldom bite humans. Their mouths are small and their teeth are quite tiny, so even if they do bite you, they can’t hang on and the bite is not painful.
The ringneck snake gets its name from the colorful band around its neck area. This band can be colored red, orange, or yellow. Their bellies typically match the coloration of their neck bands with the dorsal side of their bodies colored brown, olive, black, or blue-gray. Their heads are the same size as the rest of their bodies which are covered with smooth scales.
There are 14 recognized subspecies of the ringneck snake which include:
- Key ring-necked snake
- Pacific ring-necked snake
- Todos Santos Island ring-necked snake
- Prairie ring-necked snake
- Dugès’ ring-necked snake
- Dugès’ ring-necked snake
- San Bernardino ring-necked snake
- Northwestern ring-necked snake
- Coral belly ring-necked snake
- Southern ring-necked snake
- Regal ring-necked snake
- San Diego ring-necked snake
- Mississippi ring-necked snake
- Monterey ring-necked snake
While these snakes are elusive and shy, in the wild they can live in snake colonies of up to 100 other snakes. This makes them a social creature. Ringnecks “talk” to each other through touching and nuzzling the head and by releasing pheromones by rubbing against other snakes. They have perceptions of sight, touch, and smell.
In the wild, the ringneck snake has enemies including many other species of snakes such as coral and king snakes. Bullfrogs, owls, opossums, wild hogs, shrews, skunks, and raccoons are known to make a feast of these small snakes. Baby ringnecks can even fall prey to large spiders and even centipedes.
Whether or not a ringneck snake, or any species for that matter, would make a good pet depends on what you would consider a good pet to be. Obviously, a pet snake does not offer the same loyalty and obedience that a dog does. They aren’t free to roam your home or property like cats. They aren’t cute and cuddly like rabbits, gerbils, and hamsters.
If you’re looking for a pet that you enjoy watching the ringneck may not be a good choice as they are especially elusive, nocturnal one as it would rather hide than hangout. A ringneck would be more of a specimen than what many would consider a pet. If that’s exactly what you had in mind then you may find these snakes to be the perfect pet.
How Long Does a Ringneck Snake Live?
A ringneck snake living in the wild, and who is lucky enough to avoid its natural predators, can live up to 10 years, although the longest living ringneck on record has a lifespan of 20 years. In captivity, however, the ringneck’s lifespan isn’t anywhere near that. You can expect your snake to live up to six years provided you give it a safe, stress-free home with plenty of good insects to eat.
How Big Do Ringneck Snakes Get?
A fully grown ringneck snake can grow to a length of between 10 and 15 inches. The length will vary depending on what subspecies the snake belongs to. In diameter, they grow to about the thickness of a pencil. The average weight is 1.32 grams. Females ringnecks are larger than their male counterparts.
Ringnecks won’t outgrow a 10-gallon terrarium over the course of its life so it will never need an upgrade from its original home. Although it is rare to see them in daylight, some people capture ringnecks in the wild and bring them home and keep them in a shoebox. They may live just fine in such a confined space and it is also possible they may even thrive for a time, but a terrarium with a bedding of soil, sand, or peat moss is a far better home for them.
Are Ringneck Snakes Poisonous?
The ringneck is a constrictor. When attacking their prey the ringneck snake will grip it with their fangs and then wrap themselves around it. While their saliva does contain venom, it is in a very small amount and it is completely harmless to humans and pets. While it may be possible that some individuals could experience an allergic reaction to a bite, it is unlikely given the small amount that would be injected.
Another interesting feature of the ringneck snake is its fangs which face backward. This also makes it more difficult for it to bite something as big as a person or even a dog or cat.
Are Ringneck Snakes Aggressive?
Ringnecks are not an aggressive species of snake. This makes them a good choice for first time snake owners or younger owners. The ringneck snake much prefers to flee instead of fight and they are experts at hiding, which is why they are so rarely seen in the wild.
When a ringneck is confronted by a predator and escape is not possible, they will curl their tails up and may even flip over to expose their brightly colored underbellies which is a deterrent to many animals. Bright colors in the animal kingdom sends the message: “I am poisonous. Do not mess with me!” That said, the venom of the ringneck is so mild and delivered in such small amounts that it is no danger to humans.
Do Ringneck Snakes Bite?
Ringneck snakes have tiny teeth located at the back of their mouths so it is doubtful their bite would even break the skin. That said, this species is not known to bite when they feel threatened. Of course, they would rather slither off and hide than attack a predator.
The ringneck is a constrictor so they wrap their bodies around their intended victims (small lizards, frogs, and insects) and inject their venom. They are not capable of doing this to humans or even cats and dogs. When a ringneck is startled or confronted by a bigger predator it may try to bite but this is usually just a warning and it will make a hasty retreat right after.
Can a Ringneck Snake Kill a Dog?
It is not possible for a ringneck snake to kill a dog. While the ringneck is technically a venomous snake and it is a constrictor, it is far too small to harm a dog in either of these ways. Their natural prey is very small reptiles, amphibians, and insects and nothing so large as even the smallest dog or puppy is in danger of being killed by this snake. If a ringneck was able to bite a household pet it may startle them, but would not result in injury. The more likely outcome of any confrontation between a ringneck and a dog would be both snake and dog would be confused and afraid of each other.
How Many Babies Do Ringneck Snakes Have?
A ringneck snake will typically lay a clutch containing between one and 18 eggs although this will vary by location and subspecies. Females usually deposit their eggs in late spring and early summer with the eggs hatching in about eight weeks. Baby ringnecks measure about eight inches in length. Male and female ringnecks reach their sexual maturity in about three years.
Once a female ringneck snake gives birth, the babies are on their own to fend for themselves. As a result of this lack of parental supervision, juvenile snakes have a high mortality rate in the wild. Snakes born in captivity have a much better chance of surviving to maturity.
Do Ringneck Snakes Hibernate?
In the wild, ringneck snakes hibernate. This is called brumation when it occurs with cold-blooded creatures. Brumation is a survival technique for cold-blooded animals. When temperatures drop during periods of cold weather, the snake slows down its body functions and reaches a catatonic-like state. It is lethargic and may not move for the entire duration of winter.
Ringnecks in the wild will only use brumation during the winter months and only in areas that experience cold winters. A ringneck found in Mexico or the southern parts of the U.S. will not undergo this state of brumation. A ringneck in captivity will not undergo brumation either as long as it is kept in a heated terrarium.
Care of Ringneck Snakes
Ringneck snakes are very easy to care for, which is why they are such a popular choice as a pet. They are not aggressive, they don’t eat mammals, and don’t require a lot of space. Here are some more things to know about caring for your ringneck snake.
What do ringneck snakes eat?
In their natural habitat in wet woodlands and near streams and ponds, the ringneck eats small frogs, salamanders, and lizards as well as a variety of insects, slugs, and worms. They may even eat the baby snakes of other species if the opportunity presents itself.
Pet owners don’t have to worry about feeding their snakes reptiles or amphibians as they are also perfectly happy eating earthworms, slugs, and crickets. A big enough ringneck snake can eat small mice or voles, but they are not a required part of their diet.
How often to feed
Ringneck snakes should be given between two and four feedings per week. A shallow water dish should be kept filled in the container.
The ringneck is a very shy snake. They are not aggressive and rarely bite their handlers. They prefer to avoid conflict and will burrow and hide in their terrarium for much of the time. They will try to escape if given the opportunity, but would not attack you or a household pet if they did. They are not poisonous to humans or cats and dogs. They are quite docile and are more than happy to lie under their terrarium lining or a small rock.
A ten-gallon terrarium is ample space for a snake of the ringneck’s size. The container should be covered with wire mesh to prevent the snake from getting loose. Ringnecks like to hide, so providing plenty of objects for this purpose will make it happy. This can be sticks, branches, or small rocks. Their terrariums can be lined with about three inches of soil, sand, or peat moss which should be kept moist. The ringneck will burrow into the soil and cover itself to hide. The soil can be kept moist with water in a spray bottle as it dries out.
Do ringneck snakes need a heat lamp?
Depending on what part of the country you live, and how low the temperature can drop, will determine whether you will need a heat lamp for your pet ringneck. The cage should be kept at a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees during the day and between 65 and 70 degrees at night. If you find that a heat lamp is the only way to maintain these temperatures then you should use one when necessary. If you just need a slight bump in heat, an incandescent lightbulb may be enough to generate sufficient warmth.
Ringneck snakes may be quite shy at first, but they can be handled and will grow accustomed to it over time. They may even curl around your finger but will probably try to keep moving. Since these snakes are very small, it’s important to not try to hold them too tightly. Doing so could cause them injury. Be patient with the snake and it will eventually become more comfortable being handled.