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Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus)

Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus) - Also known as Western Ribbonsnake

Order: Squamata; Family: Colubridae

A Western Ribbon Snake observed hunting at Gerber Reserve in Kingman, Kansas.

(Kansas: Kingman County. 37° 40' 51.12" N 97° 56' 59.97" W. Hunting near a stream in tall grass. July 5, 2012. Photo by Timothy Eberl)


Above right and left: After observing the Western Ribbon Snake in the grass, it was captured, examined and released by the Summer 2012 Field Ecology class. Photo by Timothy Eberl, 2012.

Diagnosis: The Western Ribbon Snake is a member of the Thamnophis genus, which also includes Garter Snakes. It is one of four species of Ribbon Snake (the others are the Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus), the Southern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus sackeni) and the Northern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus septentrionales)). The body is typically dark brown or black with light colored stripes (white, yellow or blue) along the sides (from about the 3rd scale row down to the top of the 5th) and along the mid-back. The underside of the body is most often unmarked and is a pale cream color and rarely, pale green. The head is typically the width of the body at its widest point and has yellow or white spots on the top of the head. This species, like all garter snakes is non-venomous and harmless. This species also shows a high amount of variation in coloring.

Size: Western Ribbon Snakes typically reach a length of approximately 3 feet, though longer individuals have been recorded.

Diet: Western Ribbon Snakes eat frogs, small fish and have been observed eating small invertebrates such as slugs, snails, and insects.

Habitat: This species favors vegetation and rocky areas surrounding bodies of water.

Distribution: Spread throughout Kansas, the Southern United States, and Central America.           



Conservation status: Not currently classified by the IUCN          

Notes: Western Ribbon Snakes are harmless and typically avoid humans. They are very popular animals in the pet trade because of their docile nature during handling and are tamed very quickly. When startled or cornered in the wild, they will bite or spray musk/feces. Six subspecies of Western Ribbon Snake are currently classified and listed below.

Classified sub-species:

1. Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus proximus)  

2. Arid Land Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus diabolicus

3. Gulf Coast ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus orarius)  

4. Mexican Ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus rutiloris

5. Redstripe Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus rubrillneatus

6. Chiapas Highland Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus alpinus)


Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. 2010. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles in Kansas. Eagle Mountain Publishing, Eagle Mountain, Utah. Pp. 312  

Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. 2010. A Pocket Guide to Kansas Snakes. Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas. 43.



Houston Herpetological Supply:



Western Ribbon Snake -

Western Ribbon Snake in West Kentucky 


Image Credits: All photos taken by Timothy Eberl, 2012.

Submitted by: Timothy Eberl, July 2012.

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