The Red-bellied Snake in Iowa

“Northern Redbelly Snake, Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata (Storer, 1839)” by Misenus1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

*Disclaimer: the photo used is from Creative Commons. We did not find a red-bellied snake and pick it up. It’s a good photo to show the size and coloring of the snake. If you find one, remember it is a wild snake and may hurt you. We don’t recommend picking up a wild snake.

The red-bellied snake or Storeria occipitomaculata, is found in 24 Iowa counties including Dickinson. These snakes are a Protected Species of Iowa and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. This means it is illegal to kill them or take them from the wild.

They are harmless to humans and one of the smallest species of Iowa snakes. They only grow to be 7 – 10 inches long. Even if you were to try and find them, you might not have any luck. They live in the woods and like to hide under anything they can. If you have a woodpile, these snakes may be living under there. They also are found near marshes, lakes, and other water sources. This means that the area around Dickinson county is perfect for these little snakes.

The red-bellied snake has a red underside to warn off predators. On the top side, they are a brown or gray color. They blend in so well with the ground of the woods, under leaves, wood, or rocks. They’re kind of beautiful.

During the fall, they find places to overwinter. This is when many people will see many of them out in the woods. They will be moving to find overwintering grounds. They are good at hiding and that is their main defense. They don’t try to bite but they do release a musk. Either way, they would much rather hide.

They breed in the spring so you may see them as the snow melts and it gets warmer. They will make their way out of their overwintering grounds to find each other. They will have five to eight young who will only be about 3.5 inches long. The snakes eat slugs, snails, earthworms, and insect larvae. They eat small things that are also commonly found in the places they hide.

These snakes help control the insect population as they eat the larvae so these cute little snakes are actually helpful. The red-bellied snakes are the cutest little snakes who just want to live their little snake lives. If you see them slithering around in a wooded area, leave them be and appreciate them from where you stand.