By Jack MacRae
20th century scientific research into Kindchenschema showed that humans consider baby animals as inherently cute. It has something to do with the size and proportion of their facial features. I think this idea is especially valid with new born northern red belly snakes. I mean, OMG, they’re totes adorbs.
When they emerge from mommy’s pretty red belly, these slender serpents with big eyes are scarcely 3 inches long. They have the same contrasting colors of mom and dad: dark back and a reddish/orangeish/pinkish belly. Their specific name occipitomaculata means spots on the back of their head. They do, indeed, have 3 distinct light brown spots on the back of their head.
They’re very squirmy. But then, aren’t most snakes squirmy?
Red belly snakes are the most petite snakes of the Fox River Valley and known for their gentle nature. Adults average only 8-10 inches in length. They’re highly secretive and spend their summer days slurping slugs under slabs of bark. They show a fondness for moisture.
All red bellies live in the eastern North America, although their range throughout Illinois is sporadic. In our area, Red Bellied Snakes are typically found on oak forested, glacial ridges and adjacent openings. Some local students of nature refer to the creatures restricted to this habitat as being morainal retentive.