western fox snake

(Mintonius ramspotti)

Conservation Status
western fox snake
Photo by James Folden
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

S4 - Apparently Secure

     
  Minnesota

Species in Greatest Conservation Need

     
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Western fox snake is a medium-sized to large, nonvenomous, typical snake, one of the four largest snakes in Minnesota. Adults are usually 36 to 56 in length.

The body is light brown, yellowish-tan, or gray with an upper (mid-dorsal) row of large blotches and on each side a lateral row of smaller alternating blotches. The blotches are dark brown and are bordered with black. The dorsal blotches on most of the body are wider than long. Toward the head they are long an narrow. On the tail they become rings. On average there are 43 dorsal spots between the head and the anal opening (cloaca). The belly is pale yellow with smaller black or brown markings in an irregular checkerboard pattern. The head is reddish and mostly unmarked. The dorsal scales are weekly keeled and the lateral scales are smooth.

Young snakes have a lighter background color, a dark bar between the eyes, and a dark line from the eye to the back of the jaw.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

36 to 56

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Moist places. Prairies, agricultural fields, woodland openings and edges, lowland meadows, river bottoms, and rocky outcroppings near water.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Behavior

 
 

In the spring and fall adults move about during the day. In the hot summer they move about at night. When confronted they will often vibrate their tails producing a buzzing sound. In leaf litter or dry grass the sound resembles that of a rattlesnake. When handled it will often release a musky, fox-like odor, from which it gets its common name.

 
     
 

Lifespan

 
 

17 years

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Adults emerge from hibernation in April. Mating occurs from April to July. After mating, the female lays a clutch of 7 to 29, usually about 14, leathery, 1½ to 2 long eggs. The eggs hatch in July or August. In October adults hibernate in rocky crevices or man-made structures that extend below the frost line.

 
     
 

Food

 
 

Mice and other small rodents, birds, and bird eggs. Young may also eat frogs.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

11, 14, 24, 29, 74.

 
  10/13/2014      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common in the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota River valleys, uncommon or absent elsewhere.

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Reptilia (reptiles)  
  Superorder Lepidosauria  
  Order Squamata (lizards, snakes, and amphisbènes)  
  Suborder Serpentes (snakes)  
  Infraorder Alethinophidia  
  Superfamily Colubroidea  
 

Family

Colubridae (colubrid snakes)  
 

Subfamily

Colubrinae  
 

Genus

Mintonius  
       
 

The classification of this species has been in flux in recent years. Prior to 2002 it was classified as Elaphe vulpina. Following mitochondrial DNA analysis in that year all rat snakes in North America north of Mexico were transferred to the older genus, Pantherophis, and this species was given the name Pantherophis vulpinus by some authorities, Pantherophis ramspotti by others. However, that genus change was controversial and was not accepted by all authorities. After further molecular and morphological analysis in 2010 it was separated from the older genus and is now classified as Mintonius ramspotti. All four names are currently in use.

 
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

 

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Elaphe vulpina

Pantherophis ramspotti

Pantherophis vulpinus

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

western fox snake

western foxsnake

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Cloaca

The single posterior cavity, often called the vent, that serves as an opening for the release of intestinal waste, urinary waste, and sperm in most vertebrates (except most mammals) and some invertebrates.

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

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Bayleigh Winzenburg

 
 

I think this is a young western fox snake?

 
    western fox snake   western fox snake  
           
    western fox snake      
 

James Folden

 
 

Young western fox snake

 
    western fox snake      
 

Brian Johnson

 
    western fox snake      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Western Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)
Michael Taylor
  Western Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)  
Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)
Pierson Hill
  Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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James Folden

 
  western fox snake 01
Published on May 14, 2018
 
   
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
  Fox Snake strike and rattlesnake mimicry
sienkotothemax
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 28, 2012

A moment of excitement at work as we happen upon a fox snake (Elaphe vulpina) and have to relocate him (or her) away from the herbicide

 
  Fox snake striking
Reptile and Amphibian Video
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Oct 25, 2007

Aggressive fox snake in a defensive posture striking at the camera

 
  Iowa Reptiles Episode 4: Fox Snake
finnersnake
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Apr 21, 2008

This is another video from the Demastus Boys where we show off a beautiful Fox Snake caught in Banner Lakes State Park.

 
  Fox Snake
dupageforest
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 20, 2011

The fox snake has a well-camouflaged brown and beige body and grows up to five feet. As a member of the rat snake family, this snake constricts its prey. When DuPage County was once farmed and contained thousands of acres of corn and grain fields, rodents were plentiful; the fox snake kept the rodent population in check in former DuPage. Today, the fox snake lives in grassy areas in DuPage forest preserves. This fox snake is used in educational programs about native wildlife at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. It is handled by naturalist Kevin Luby. Willowbrook is owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

 
  Minnesota Fox Snake
TeeJay5085's channel
 
   
 
About

Published on May 5, 2013

Large adult male Fox snake just emerged from hibernation. Details of video show typical 'tail rattling' in dry leaves. (And the main reason why some people think we still have Rattlesnakes in the Minnesota River Valley)

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this reptile.

 
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  Jim Folden
5/2/2020

Location: Minneiska, MN : Wabasha County

I think this is a young western fox snake?

western fox snake  
  Johnson
5/26/2019

Location: Silver Lake near Cumberland  Wisconsin

   
  Jim Folden
5/13/2018

Location: LeSueur County, gravel road outside the Kasota Prairie

western fox snake  
  Brian Johnson
9/20/2014

Location: Afton State Park

I sighted this fox snake at Afton State Park sunning itself on the path near to main parking lot on September 20th.

western fox snake  
           
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

Binoculars


Created: 10/14/2014

Last Updated:

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