Length: These are mid-sized snakes measuring between 34 and 92 cm in length.
BodyType: Queen Snakes have a somewhat slender body.
Color: Both the adults as well as the young ones have a grayish body. However, their color may also range from olive green to light brown. Three faint dark stripes run down the length of the body. Two yellowish or whitish stripes run along the sides of the snakes. The snake’s belly is yellowish in color and has four brown stripes. Two faint, light stripes run down the back.
Scales: The scales on a Queen Snake’s body are keeled.
Pupils: The pupils of a Queen Snake are rounded.
Anal Plate: A Queen Snake has a divided anal plate.
Tail: The males have longer tails than the females.
Sexual Dimorphism: The females are larger in size than the males.
Picture 1 – Queen Snake
These snakes are found along the temperate regions of North America in the eastern parts of Mississippi River from the western parts of the state of New York to Wisconsin, northern Florida, southern parts of Alabama as well as southwestern Ontario.
Queen snakes are very particular about their habitat requirements which depend heavily on their choice of diet. They are most commonly found in clean running streams and watery areas having rocks and stony bottoms. The temperature of the water should be minimum 50°F during the active months of these snakes.
Here are some common behavioral patterns of Queen Snakes.
Queen Snakes are diurnal by nature. Sometimes, they are also move about and hunt at night.
They frequently rest under rocks on the streams and brooks they inhabit.
Queen snakes love to bask in the sun and will do so by perching themselves on tree branches.
They are very quick to spot any potential threat and will quickly return to their watery habitat at the slightest hint of any disturbances.
Unlike many aggressive snakes, the Queen Snake is very docile and not prone to biting.
Apart from the mating season, queen snakes lead a very solitary life.
Fresh water crayfishes form the mainstay of these snakes’ diet. They also like to prey exclusively on newly molted crayfish, as they cannot defend themselves against Queen Snakes’ attack with their pincers. Other food sources include tadpoles, frogs, newts, snails, minnows and fairy shrimp.
The main predators of these snakes include raccoons, minks, otters, herons and hawks. Large fishes and frogs also prey on the young ones.
Here are the main adaptive features of these snakes.
The narrow head of the Queen Snake is covered with 9 plate-like scales and the chin has numerous rows of thick scales. These scales protect the snake from being crushed under rocks when it is searching for food.
These snakes have small and agile bodies which they can move very quickly once they become aware of any danger or potential threats.
Instead of sight or heat sensitivity, queen snakes use their sense of smell to catch their prey since their olfactory senses are very strong.
If grabbed, a queen snake will smear the individual with foul smelling secretions as a defense mechanism.
These snakes hibernate during the winter months. Several snakes can be found together in hibernacula close to their watery habitat. Hibernation dens are generally built inside some old bridge abutments, dams, and niches of bedrock as well as cracked concrete walls. The snakes are very lethargic during hibernation. Crayfishes, the main choice of food for these snakes may become their predator and start consuming young snakes during this time.
Like all snakes, the Queen Snake also sheds its skin from time to time. A newborn snake will grow rapidly and so have to shed its skin twice during the first week. Adults shed their skin three to four times per year.
Queen Snakes mostly mate in spring as well as during the autumn months. Springtime mating mostly starts in the month of May.
The male queen snakes reach sexual maturity at the age of two and the females at the age of three. Even when both the male and female snakes become sexually mature at 2 years of age, the female snakes will probably wait for another year before they decide to mate. If a female has mated during autumn, she can postpone giving birth till next spring while choosing to store the energy that she would need during the hibernating months. Queen snakes breed once per year.
Picture 3 – Baby Queen Snake
A courting male is going to approach a female by flicking its tongue in order to seek for chemical cues that reveal her identity and eagerness to mate. The male will then crawl over to the female to align its own body as well as its vent with that of the female.
Queen snakes are ovoviviparous, which means that the females give birth to the young ones after a period of carrying the eggs along with her in her body. A litter size can vary greatly, and can consist of anywhere between 5 and 20 newborn snakes. It takes between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes for an individual snake to be born. The time interval between two individual births is anywhere around four minutes to one hour, with an average of 11 minutes.
The newborn snakes are approximately 6 inches in length and weigh around 3 grams. Their bodies are covered with even more marks than that of the adults. They grow very rapidly during this early period and can even shed skin twice during the first week after birth. During these early stages, they mostly live on yolk stores which are rich in nutrients. The baby queen snakes are very independent from the beginning. They can swim and fend for themselves directly after birth. Within the first year, the length of their bodies increases by 50% to 80%. After the second year, the rate of growth drops considerably.
The longevity of queen snakes in the wild is not exactly known. However, an individual queen snake has been known to live up to 19 years in captivity.
Queen Snake as Pets
Queen snakes have a considerable appeal as pets. Many people feeling eager to pet reptiles often choose queen snakes as their preferred creature. Caring for them is easy and with little effort, one can provide a nice home for them.
Housing: Get a tank or an aquarium to house your pet snake. It should be at least a medium-sized tank or aquarium and have enough space for the snake to move about. The tank should be provided with rocks which will function as a basking ground for the snakes. Prepare to house young snakes if you keep a male snake together with a female one.
Water requirements: A source of clean water should be provided in the tank’s enclosure, as queen snakes living in the wild prefer to hang around aquatic environments having fast-running clean water.
Temperature: A heater should be fitted to the tank or aquarium which will help to keep the temperature above 50° Fahrenheit. Like any other snake, queen snakes are cold blooded and they require a specific temperature to be active and healthy.
Feeding: Provide your pet queen snake with a healthy diet of soft-shelled crayfishes, minnows, newts, shrimps, snails, tadpoles and frogs.
Hibernation: Provide a space for your pet snake to hibernate during the colder months.
Queen snakes have been classified under the category of “Least concern” by the IUCN.
Here are some interesting facts about these snakes.
A queen snake is often mistakenly believed to be a garter snake as they are quite similar in their appearance.
Their peaceful nature sets them apart from most of the other snake species. When threatened, they prefer not to attack their enemies.
Although a diurnal species, queen snakes are often found to roam and hunt during nighttime.
The females do not lay eggs; instead they carry the eggs inside their bodies and give birth to live young ones.