Friday, July 12, 2024

Small Slitherers Help Balance Our Ecosystems

Northern ringneck snake (diadophis punctatus edwardsii)

Snakes are a species of reptiles that have a bad repuation but they are an extremely important part of our ecosystem. In New Jersey, we have 22 species of snakes. Only two of them are venomous, the timber rattlesnake and copperhead- both of which are protected species. Many of these snakes keep populations in check by consuming rodents and insects that carry disease.

One snake that we find under rocks, logs and bark in our yard is the northern ringneck snake. These particular snakes tend to be on the smaller side, only ranging in length from 10 to 30 inches. Their size means that they tend to eat smaller food sources such as insects, slugs, salamanders, worms or even smaller snakes.

Although northern ringneck snakes can be found throughout New Jersey, they can overlap in the southern part of their range with the southern ringneck snake. The distinction between these two snakes can be found in the ring around their neck and a close inspection of their underbelly. Northern ringneck snakes have a complete circle around their necks with a yellow belly and occasional black spots. Southern ringneck snakes tend to have an incomplete circle around their necks and half-moon black spots going down their underbelly.

I always encourage people, if you have a fear of something, learn as much as you can about it because oftentimes that knowledge can give you power over that fear. Many people are afraid of snakes and their first instinct is to kill them. However, they are invaluable to our environment in maintaining a balance of pests in the area.

Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist
Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist

Jennifer has a Masters in Parks and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. She worked as a Park Naturalist for Hunterdon County Park System from 2003-2006 and then at the NJSOC full-time from 2006 - 2020, starting as the Program Coordinator and evolving to an Environmental Educator. Jen is a New Jersey native and has lived in Warren County with her family since 2004. She is excited to be offering programs to this community she has grown to love.