Identification: These small, secretive snakes are similar to many other small brown snakes in Indiana, with the exception of their bright orange-red underbelly. Their dorsal color is variable with some individuals exhibiting a light gray background color while others are reddish brown and most snakes have one to three light blotches around the neck (forming a ring on newborn snakes). Typically two thin, dark lines run the length of their body and enclose a stripe that may be gray or brown. Most adult red-bellied snakes are under a foot (30 cm) in length.
Similar Species: Red-bellied snakes are most similar to their close relative, DeKay's Brownsnake, but can be easily differentiated as brownsnakes lack the red belly and light neck blotches and have black spots or dashes down their back. Kirtland's snakes have a red belly bordered by black spots and have a black hood and dark blotches dorsally. Neonates are superficially similar to young ring-necked snakes (due to the appearance of a ringed neck), but the latter is a slate-gray to black snake with a bright yellow belly.
Distribution: Red-bellied snakes have an interesting distribution in Indiana as they are found both in the rugged, unglaciated hills of south-central Indiana and in the flat regions of northern Indiana that were formerly prairie and savannah. As such, their habitat preferences are apparently broad. In southern and western Indiana, they are uncommon and usually encountered in mesic forests. In northern Indiana, they are locally abundant in more open habitats and often found along railroad right of ways, abandoned lots, and remnant prairie patches.