Clonophis Kirtlandii – Kirtland’s Snake

Clonophis Kirtlandii - Kirtland's Snake information

The Kirtland’s snake is a small non-venomous snake found in the Northern United States. The snake is grey or brown with four rows of black spots along the back and has a red belly.


The base color of the Kirtland’s snake is either brown or grey. The snake has four lines of small round black blotches along its body. Darker specimen often have a reddish-brown stripe running down along the center of their back.

Brown snake with dark spots blotches look like squares in Illinois Kirtland's snake
The back of a dark-colored Kirtland’s snake. Photo: Peter Paplanus

The head is almsot entirely black. The belly of the snake is red or orange with two lines of small black dots along the sides.

Brown snake with dark black spots and red belly in ohio is the kirtland's snake
A Kirtland’s snake showing its colorful belly. Photo: Andrew Hoffmann

Without getting a closer look at their red belly, the snake is easily confused with the Dekay’s brown snake. When the red belly is displayed, it can be confused with the red-bellied snake, which has a similar belly but less clearly-defined patterns on its back.


The Kirtland’s snake is a small and slender snake. Adults reach an average size of 14-18 inches (30-45 cm).

Diet an Habitat

The Kirtland’s snake prefers moist habitats like mashlands and swamps and also occurs in nearby forests and grasslands. It feeds mainly on juvenile crayfish as well earthworms, slugs and other small reptiles and amphibians.

Grey snake with dark spots or pattern and orange belly Kirtland's snake
A light-grey Kirtland’s snake with its red belly. Photo: Douglas Mills

Bite and Defensive Behavior

The Kirtland’s snake is a non-aggressive and non-venomous snake. When it feels threatened, it will either take flight or roll up into a ball and wait for the danger to pass. Even if handled, the snake does not resort to biting and no bites of a Kirkland’s snake have ever been recorded.

Geographic range

The Kirtland’s snake is endemic to the Northeastern United States. It occurs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Southern Michigan, Northern Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania. In Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the snake is listed as endangered. In Ohio and Illinois, it is listed as threatened.

Scientific classification of Clonophis kirtlandii

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Clonophis
  • Species: Clonophis kirtlandii
Clonophis Kirtlandii – Kirtland’s Snake

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