Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Squamata   suborder Serpentes
Elaphe vulpina -- Western Foxsnake

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Will County, IL; photo by Mike Redmer distribution map

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: Back yellow with brown blotches; belly black with yellow checks; back scales weakly keeled; anal plate divided.

Similar Species: Prairie kingsnake, milk snake, rat snake, Great Plains rat snake, bullsnake. What's the difference between a fox snake and a massasauga?

Subspecies: Western fox snake, E. v. vulpina.

Description: Large (up to 130 cm TL) snake with copper-colored head distinctly wider than neck. Back yellow to bronze with 34-42 reddish brown blotches and an alternating row of brown spots along each side. Belly yellow and boldly marked with black. Hatchling and juvenile resemble adult except for having gray ground coloring and black or dark chestnut blotches.

Habitat: Variety of open and former prairie habitats, including intensively cultivated fields and pastures, in the northern half of the state.

Natural History: A diurnal constrictor that, like many other snakes, often vibrates its tail when threatened. Active early spring through late autumn, even on warm winter days when drawn from its underground hibernation. Mates from June to early July and lays 8-27 eggs about 30 days later. Young (ca. 23-30 cm TL) hatch in late August or September. Diet includes small mammals, birds, their eggs, and nestlings. Main predators are carnivorous mammals and raptors.

Status: Locally common, especially in Grand Prairie.


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