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Eastern ribbon snake proves elusive, but finally found

This Eastern ribbon snake was located in Slocum Township. The colors are dull because the snake is getting ready to shed.

Tom Venesky/For The Times Leader

SLOCUM TWP. – Things were looking grim in the search for snake number 8. Rick Koval and I spent several hours searching a farm for rat snakes and copperheads, and a vernal pool for ribbon snakes.

As daylight began to fade, we decided to hit another farm that borders a sizable swamp in one last attempt to find a ribbon snake, rat snake or copperhead.

After a 15-minute walk to the swamp, things looked promising. An expansive bog thick with blueberry bushes and pools of water got our hopes up. But after a few hours of flipping rocks and rolling logs turned up a single ringneck snake, we decided to call it a day.

And that’s when Koval decided to look under one more flat rock that bordered the water.

“Ribbon snake,” shouted Koval as he plucked the snake from its hiding place before it could flee.

In a matter of seconds, the day went from a loss to a success with the find.

“The ribbon snake and hognose are probably the two species in this county that are the hardest to find,” Koval said.

The Eastern ribbon snake is a species of special concern in the state and is fairly rare in Luzerne County. The snake we found in Slocum Township was 16 inches in length and extremely long and slender, allowing it to easily climb and maneuver through the thick brush surrounding the swamp.

Aside from the yellow stripes running along the length of the snake’s body and two small dots in front of each eye, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the ribbon snake is its tail that looks like it never ends.

The non-venomous ribbon snake preys on small amphibians and fish, making it a predominantly aquatic snake.

At A Glance

Species: Eastern ribbon snake

Habitat: marshes, bogs, wetlands

Food: amphibians, fish

Size: up to 30 inches

Status: Species of special concern; rare in Luzerne County

Fact: Related to the garter snake, the ribbon snake has a small dot in front of each eye that differentiates it from the common garter.

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