Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Family Colubridae

Farancia e. erytrogramma

Common Rainbowsnake photo courtesy of Lance Benedict
Photo of Rainbowsnake courtesy of Lance Benedict


36 inches – 44 inches. Record: 60 inches.


  • This beautiful glossy iridescent snake is like no other in Maryland.

  • It has 3 red stripes on a blue-black background running the length of its body.

  • The belly is primarily red with paired rows of black spots.

  • The tail is short and ends in a sharp tip, which it may use to probe the ground.

  • The scales are usually keelless but there may be some keeled scales above the vent.

  • The anal plate is usually divided, but may also be single.

  • Tail Barb (top), Anal Plate (bottom), courtesy of John White Habitat for Rainbowsnake courtesy of Matt Sell
    Tail Barb (top)
    Anal Plate (bottom)
    courtesy of John White
    Habitat for Rainbowsnake courtesy of Matt Sell


    This is a highly aquatic species, preferring swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams. They tolerate brackish water. They will also be found on dry land, burrowing in moist soil, muck or a sandy substrate.

    How to Find

    This is a highly rare species in Maryland. These snakes are swimmers and burrowers. Young may be found by looking under boards or other cover near streams. This snake is state listed as Endangered in Maryland. If you find one, please contact the MD DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service.

    Distribution in Maryland

    Found infrequently on the western portion of the Coastal Plain and possibly in the Potomac valley into Montgomery County.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Rainbowsnake

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.