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Kirtland’s Snake, although a water snake, is the least aquatic of the Ohio water snakes. It can be identified by its bright red belly conspicuously marked with a row of black spots along each side. It typically reaches 14 to 18 inches in length, and the males tend to be shorter than females.
The Kirtland’s snakes diet consists mostly of earthworms and slugs. They may also eat leeches sometimes.
Distribution And Habitat
Kirtland’s snake can be throughout the glaciated western half of Ohio, and into a few glacial out wash-filled valleys in southwestern Ohio. Its secretive nature and marked preference for wet meadows makes it difficult to find. It is most common in the vicinity of Lucas and Hamilton counties, wherever wet fields remain. These snakes prefer open damp areas like marsh edges, wet prairies, fens, and pastures.
Peak breeding activity is May, but Kirtland’s snakes do not lay eggs. A female will give birth in the late summer to 4 to 22 offspring and the young will reach maturity at two years old. Each newborn is 5 to 6¾ inches in total length and averages 1.4 grams in weight.
Like the Kirtland’s warbler, the Kirtland’s water snake was named for Doctor Jared P. Kirtland, an early physician and nationally renowned naturalist from Lakewood, Ohio.
When first encountered, the Kirtland’s snake usually flattens its body–making it appear larger–and strikes repeatedly. This is merely an act to frighten off intruders. Its strikes are harmless and when handled, the snake does not attempt to bite.