The Queen Snake, Regina septemvittata, is a non-venomous member of the Colubrid family of snakes. The species ranges through the temperate regions of North America east of the Mississippi River from western New York State to Wisconsin and south to Alabama and northern Florida. Some may be found in southern parts of Ontario.
The Queen Snake is strikingly similar in appearance to the Garter snake and is often confused with that group. This snake is olive to gray or dark brown with peach or yellow stripes that run down its body to the first row of scales. There are also dark colored stripes running down the ventral (belly) side of the snake. This is the only species of snake with this feature.
The head of the Queen Snake is narrow and has nine large plate-like scales on top and the chin has several rows of thicker scales. This is for protection as the snake chases its prey under rocks. The pupils of the eye are round, a feature share with all colubrid species. Although they are hard to distinguish by appearance, the male has a longer tail than the female.
These snakes are not large, and they seldom grow to more than 24 inches long. Male snakes mature at two years of age while the female matures at 3.
Breeding takes place in the spring and autumn months. If mating was done in autumn, the female can delay giving birth until spring. The female gives birth to living young after carrying the eggs within her body.
Newborn snakes begin to grow very rapidly and may shed their skin twice in their first week while living off of the nutrient rich yolk stores they preserve through this time in their lives. The baby snakes are able to swim and move about and they must fend for themselves independently directly after birth. Juvenile Queen snakes range from 6 to 9 inches in length.
Queen Snakes hibernate in the winter months and often groups of them can be found nesting together. The den can be inside old bridge abutments, cracked concrete walls, dams, and in cracks in bedrock. It is a diurnal species but it can be found moving about and hunting at night. They are often found by turning over rocks within or near the brooks and streams they inhabit. They will also come out of the water to bask in the sun, often perching on branches or roots above or near the waters edge.
The Queen Snake has many predators including raccoons, otters, minks and heron. Large Frogs and fish may also eat the young. Their main threat is loss of habitat due to drained waterways and polluted food sources.