Squamata suborder Serpentes
Clonophis kirtlandii -- Kirtland's Snake
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Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan)
shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified
sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only
NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.
Key Characters: Red or orange belly bearing a contrasting row of black spots along each side; keeled scales; divided anal plate.
Similar Species: Brown snake, redbelly snake.
Description: Small (up to 47 cm TL), stout snake with gray or brown back sporting four rows of 46-57 rounded black blotches. Belly bright red to faded orange and distinctively marked by two rows of dark spots. Juvenile darker on the back and sides, and less conspicuously blotched.
Habitat: Prairie wetlands, wet meadows, and grassy edges of creeks, ditches, and ponds, usually in association with crayfish burrows. Has been found in damp habitat remnants in vacant lots of urban settings.
Natural History: Secretive and nocturnal, it shelters beneath logs and surface debris, or in crayfish burrows, by day. When threatened, it flattens its body and becomes rigid. This viviparous snake mates in May and gives birth to 4-15 young in August or September. Newborn are 10-17 cm TL. Diet includes earthworms, leeches, and slugs. Predators include other snakes and birds.
Status: Threatened in Illinois. Threats include drainage of wetlands, destruction of native prairie marshlands, and reduction of earthworm populations by herbicides and pesticides. Known from only a few isolated populations scattered through central and northeastern counties.