Queen Snake

Regina septemvittata

Queen snakes are a member of the genus Regina, the "crayfish" snakes. Of the four species, it is the only member of the "crayfish" snakes to occur in Pennsylvania. Two populations exist within Pennsylvania - one in southeastern Pennsylvania and the other throughout the western part of the state. Outside of Pennsylvania, it occurs from southern Ontario to Alabama and Florida. Throughout their range they are typically found along fast-flowing creeks, streams, and small rivers occassionally venturing into slower moving bodies of water.

A medium sized snake, full grown queen snakes average 1.5' to 2' in total length. As its scientific name suggests, queen snakes are characterized by 7 longitudinal stripes - 3 located dorsally and 4 ventrally.

Queen snakes are diurnal and prey almost exclusively on crayfish. They show a preference for recently molted crayfish, as the soft exoskeleton likely is easier to ingest and digest. When a crayfish is encountered, it is seized and swallowed tail first.

Like their relatives the water snakes (Nerodia spp.), queen snakes give birth to live young. Mating occurs in spring and 4 to 15 young are born in late August.

There is anecdotal evidence that populations in Pennsylvania are declining. Part of this decline is attributed to declines in native crayfish through pollution and the introduction of invasive crayfish species. Monitoring is necessary to determine if these declines are, indeed, occuring and if queen snakes should receive a protected status in Pennsylvania.