Queensnake Regina septemvittata

Adult female from Ripley County

Identification

Despite their regal name, Queensnakes are relatively drab and nondescript. They are uniformly brown with a lighter, tan-yellow underbelly adorned with four dark stripes. There are also three dark stripes on its back that are most visible in neonates. Most adults are relatively small at one to two feet (30 - 60 cm) long, but some may grow to nearly three feet (90 cm) long.

Adult from Decatur County
Adult from Union County

Given that this snake is relatively non-descript when viewed from above, it could be confused with other small, brown snakes. Northern Watersnakes are the most likely snake to be found alongside this species, but grow larger and have prominent brown blotches. Common Gartersnakes are also commonly encountered alongside this species, but have notable dorsal and lateral stripes and are usually lighter-colored.

Ecology and Conservation

Known as a crayfish specialist, Queensnakes survive almost solely on these invertebrates. Due to the crayfish’s hard exoskeleton, Queensnakes prefer to eat those that have recently molted and are still “soft-shelled.” They detect their prey by sense of smell and probing under rocks and other submerged objects. Ironically, crayfish are a large danger to young Queensnakes, which can trap the small snakes in their claws and possibly cause them to drown.

Rocky stream in Montgomery County
Whitewater River in Franklin County

Due to its dependence on crayfish, Queensnakes are almost always found near warm, shallow, rocky-bottomed streams with an abundance of prey. However, they can also inhabit ponds, lakes, canals, bogs, and other wetlands. They seem to avoid totally shaded sites, but reside in uninhabited bodies of water that are open or partially wooded. They can normally be seen basking in overhanging branches, hiding under shore side rocks, or even swimming along the stream. If the snake is taken by surprise on the ground, it will flatten its body and release musk from specialized glands at the base of the tail.

The species is generally uncommon throughout its range and is listed as a State Endangered species in Wisconsin.

Distribution

Though they are most abundant in the rocky limestone streams of southeastern Indiana, their range extends into central Indiana and northwest into the canyons and gorges along Sugar Creek. They are locally abundant at scattered localities in far northern Indiana.

Taxonomy

No subspecies of the Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) are currently recognized. These snakes are members of the family Colubridae, which is represented by a total of 28 species in Indiana.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Queensnake (Regina septemvittata)
Photographs