Fox Snake, Eastern

Latin name

Elaphe vulpina gloydi


Fast facts

  • Adult body length: 34 - 54 inches (record 70½ inches)
  • Body length at hatching: 10 - 13 inches
  • Breeding period: April to July; eggs laid June to early August
  • Young per year: 6 - 29 eggs hatch late August to October
  • Typical foods: small mammals such as voles and mice, eggs, and fledgling birds


    The Eastern Fox Snake's background color is yellowish to light brown. Contrasting with this light ground color a row of large, dark brown to black splotches, that runs down the middle of the back and tail. On either side of this bold row there is a row of smaller dark blotches. The smaller marks alternate with the larger marks so that they usually are not side-by-side.

    The coloration of the Eastern Fox Snake makes it look something like the Northern Copperhead Snake. Although these two snakes do not live in the same part of Ohio people sometimes mistake one for the other and kill the non-venomous snake thinking that it is dangerous.


    Overall Range
    Great Lakes region west to Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri.

    Range in Ohio
    Northern extreme of the state around the western end of Lake Erie and its islands. 

    Map showing the range of the fox snake in Ohio

    Local Habitat
    Marshland bordering western Lake Erie, rocky shores of Lake Erie islands.


    Reportedly the Fox Snake is an excellent climber and a good swimmer, but it is seen more often on the ground. It frequents fields near streams and marshes. One specimen was seen along the rocky shoreline of one of the larger islands in Lake Erie. The Fox Snake is harmless and not aggressive toward humans. Young individuals may try to strike at an annoying person, older ones usually will not. However, if surprised or startled an individual may vibrate its tail rapidly, which in the midst of dry leaves or other ground litter, might sound like a rattlesnake. And adults will spray a musky-smelling, anal secretion when annoyed. Supposedly this smells like a fox.

    During cold weather Fox Snakes hibernate in protected, frost-free places such as mammal burrows. Large water birds as well as hawks and larger mammals prey on these snakes.