Pantherophis gloydi
Eastern fox snake
Image of Pantherophis gloydi

Photo by Craig A. Weatherby 

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Key Characteristics

The Eastern Fox Snake is large (adult length 3 - 5.5 feet/0.9-1.7 m), boldly patterned snake with large dark brown or black blotches down the middle of the back and smaller, alternating blotches along the sides of a yellowish to light brown body. The underside is yellowish checkered with dark squarish spots. The head can be yellow, light brown to reddish brown and is generally unmarked except for a dark band between the eyes on the top of the head and a few dark bands extending from the eye down to the mouth. Juvenile Eastern Fox Snakes are paler in color than the adults and have gray or brown blotches bordered in black on the back and more distinctive head markings.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T
  • State Rank: S2
  • Global Rank: G3


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
St. Clair52013
Distribution map for Pantherophis gloydi

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The Eastern Fox Snake inhabits emergent wetlands along Great Lakes shorelines and associated large rivers and impoundments. They prefer habitats with herbaceous vegetation such as cattails (Typha spp.). Although primarily an open wetland species, Eastern Fox Snakes also occupy drier habitats such as vegetated dunes and beaches, old fields, and open woodlands. They also are able to utilize disturbed areas such as farm fields, pastures, woodlots, vacant urban lots, rock riprap, ditches, dikes, and residential properties. Eastern Fox Snakes are usually found near water, and are capable of swimming long distances over open offshore waters and between islands. This species deposits its eggs in or under the soil, woody debris, sawdust piles, decaying vegetation and mammal burrows, and hibernates in abandoned mammal burrows, muskrat lodges or other suitable shelters.

Specific Habitat Needs

Downed woody debris needed in Emergent marsh, Great Lakes marsh, Lakeplain wet prairie, Lakeplain wet-mesic prairie, Mesic southern forest, Lakeplain oak openings, Mesic sand prairie, Open dunes, Sand and gravel beach

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.


Protection and management of remaining populations and habitat are crucial for conservation of this species in Michigan. Maintaining or restoring large, suitable wetland complexes and minimizing habitat fragmentation (e.g., due to roads or development) would greatly benefit this species. Management of wetland habitats should include maintaining open conditions, providing adequate nesting sites as well as refugia for young snakes by maintaining and/or providing adequate cover (e.g., downed woody debris) and maintaining suitable hibernacula. Management activities such as prescribed burning and mowing should be conducted during the inactive season (i.e., November through March or early April) or on days when the snakes are unlikely to be basking or above ground (e.g., on cloudy/overcast days with air temperatures below 55oF) to minimize the potential for take of fox snakes. In addition to habitat protection, public education is needed to help facilitate proper identification of this snake, raise public awareness, and discourage illegal persecution, harassment, and collection. Any suspected illegal take of Eastern Fox Snakes should be reported to local authorities.

Active Period

Active from third week of April to fourth week of October

Breeding from first week of June to second week of July

Nesting from fourth week of June to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

The best way to survey for this species is to conduct visual encounter surveys in May and June when the snakes are most active and most visible. Visual surveys should consist ideally of multiple surveyors walking through suitable habitat looking for individuals on the surface or under cover. Eastern Fox Snakes are often found basking on artificially created dikes, muskrat houses, roads or other elevated sites. Cover board surveys also can be conducted in conjunction with visual surveys. These would consist of placing cover boards in areas with suitable habitat and turning over the boards during the day and looking for snakes under the boards.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 23, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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