Lined Snake

Image of a lined snake
Scientific Name
Tropidoclonion lineatum
Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

The small, secretive lined snake looks similar to a gartersnake. It is mainly brown to grayish brown. Its dark stripes are grayish brown, dark gray, or olive gray. There are three light stripes, one (the lightest) along the middle of the back, plus two on the sides. The light stripes are light gray, white, or yellow. The belly is white with two distinct rows of dark gray spots or half-moon shapes along the midline. When captured, it will release a foul-smelling musk from glands at the base of the tail. It seldom bites when handled.


Length: 8 to 15 inches.

Where To Find
Lined Snake Distribution Map

Lives mainly in the western part of the state, with scattered populations in extreme northeast counties and the St. Louis area.

Normally active from April through October, lined snakes hide during the day under rocks, logs, and other debris, becoming active at night. They live in a wide variety of habitats: native prairies, glades, empty lots in towns and suburbs, near old trash dumps, along highways where there is abundant debris for shelter, and open, rocky woodlands.

This species feeds almost exclusively on earthworms.

Life Cycle

Female lined snakes become sexually mature in midsummer of their second year, and males during the first year. Mating occurs in autumn. Each female produces one litter of 2–12 young, which are born in July and August. At birth, they are about 4 inches long.

Humans burden many snake species with unfair, undying myths that paint them to be much more dangerous and harmful than they are. But it almost takes willpower to be afraid of small snakes like this one, and most people simply enjoy seeing these interesting creatures.

Although predators to earthworms, lined snakes, as with other small snakes, can be preyed upon by many animals such as kingsnakes, birds of prey, or bullfrogs. One researcher watched a blue jay attack and try to eat a 10-inch-long lined snake in the St. Louis area.

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Similar Species
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.