At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Queen Snake?

R. Britton
R. Britton

Native to the United States and Canada, the queen snake, Regina septemvittata, is an aquatic snake that hibernates during the cold winter months. It is a diurnal species, meaning it is most active during the day, when it hunts for food. On average, a queen snake can reach up to 2 feet (60 cm) long. The queen snake has an olive brown upper body, with a creamy yellow underside. This species is not venomous and does not pose any danger to humans.

Preferring rocky-bottomed, moderately shallow, fast-flowing water, the queen snake feeds mostly on crayfish. Shortly after the crayfish has shed its very hard exoskeleton, before the new exoskeleton has had time to harden — so the crayfish is still "soft shelled" — is the point at which a queen snake will eat a crayfish. If crayfish are scarce, the snake will eat frogs, small fish and invertebrates.

Queen snakes may eat frogs.
Queen snakes may eat frogs.

The queen snake usually remains close to bodies of water with a ready supply of crayfish. Often found under rocky outcrops or overhangs along the banks of bodies of water that contain a plentiful supply of food, this species can also be spotted basking on top of rocks or amid vegetation along the banks. Sometimes the queen snake can be spotted draped over low-hanging branches above the water, occasionally in large numbers.

The queen snake hibernates from October until April, becoming almost entirely inactive and very lethargic during this time. The snake becomes very vulnerable to predation during this time. The queen snake is at risk from large birds such as herons, as well as mature crayfish. Large crayfish are a particular threat to juvenile snakes, even when the snake is not hibernating. It is relatively common for a juvenile queen snake to be captured by a mature crayfish when hunting.

While still thriving in a few areas, such as Georgia, the queen snake population is declining rapidly in many areas. In areas such as Wisconsin, the queen snake is under state protection but is not yet under federal protection. In Canada this species has extensive protection as a seriously threatened species. In Canada the queen snake is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act, the Canada National Parks Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The main threats to this species are the loss of waterways and the localized decline in crayfish numbers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Queen Snake and where can it be found?

A Queen Snake, scientifically known as Regina septemvittata, is a non-venomous species of snake native to North America. They are commonly found near freshwater sources like streams and rivers throughout the eastern United States and into southern Ontario, Canada. These snakes prefer clean water habitats with abundant crayfish, their primary food source.

What does a Queen Snake typically eat?

Queen Snakes have a specialized diet, primarily feeding on freshly molted crayfish, which are softer and easier to digest. According to studies, they have evolved to take advantage of this food source, and their presence is often an indicator of a healthy crayfish population and, by extension, a clean aquatic ecosystem.

How do Queen Snakes reproduce, and when?

Queen Snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Mating occurs in spring, and females give birth to 5-24 live young in late summer or early fall. The newborn snakes are independent from birth and receive no parental care, which is typical behavior for most snake species.

What is the conservation status of the Queen Snake?

The Queen Snake is currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of extinction. However, their populations are susceptible to habitat degradation, particularly pollution and siltation of waterways, which can impact their crayfish prey and, consequently, their own survival.

How do Queen Snakes benefit their ecosystem?

Queen Snakes play a crucial role in their aquatic ecosystems by controlling crayfish populations, which can become overabundant and cause ecological imbalance. Their presence also serves as a bioindicator of water quality, as they require clean, unpolluted water to thrive, thus signaling the health of their habitat.

Can Queen Snakes be dangerous to humans?

Queen Snakes pose no danger to humans as they are non-venomous and typically shy, preferring to escape rather than confront potential threats. They are harmless if encountered and should be respected and left undisturbed, contributing to the biodiversity and balance of their natural habitats.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Queen snakes may eat frogs.
      Queen snakes may eat frogs.