The fox snake is the common name given to two species of non-venomous snake.
The eastern fox snake ranges in the states of Ohio and eastern Michigan, and the Canadian province of Ontario in flat, marshy areas along the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The western fox snake occurs in the open forests, prairies, and farmlands of western Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Their ranges are not known to overlap.
Until recently the eastern and western fox snakes were considered to be subspecies
of Elaphe vulpina
, with the western fox snake being Elaphe vulpina
and the eastern fox snake Elaphe vulpina gloydi
. They were reclassified and each granted full species status. North American
species of the genus Elaphe
were reclassified to the genus Pantherophis
, to differentiate them from the Asian
Fox snakes are primarily diurnal
, but sometimes will also eat birds
, and juveniles often consume frogs
and other small animals. They kill their prey
. Like many colubrid snakes
, when harassed they will vibrate their tails
, which frequently results in them to be mistaken for rattlesnakes
. They are also capable of releasing a musky
anal secretion which purportedly smells fox
-like, hence their name.
In the winter months fox snakes will hibernate, often congregating with other snakes, even those of other species, in suitable den sites.
Fox snakes are extremely docile towards humans, and are not aggressive, even if cornered.
Mating occurs in the late spring and early summer months. A clutch averaging 15-20 eggs
is laid in mid summer and normally hatches in early fall.
The state of Michigan
lists the eastern fox snake as threatened, largely due to habitat loss.
In Ontario the eastern fox snake is listed as threatened and protected by the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The extent of their decline is currently the subject of study by biologists at Queen's University
. The western fox snake is listed by the state of Missouri as endangered due to prairie loss and wetland drainage.