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