Eastern fox snakes range from 91 to 137 cm in length when mature (the published record length is 179 cm. The scales vary from a yellowish color to light brown, with dark blotches ranging in color from chocolate to black. The head will also vary in color from brown to a reddish color. Fox snakes have a yellow-colored belly that is checkered with black. Young snakes are paler in color, spots are rich brown and edged with a black or dark brown band, and they have a dark line in front of their eyes.
Eastern fox snakes historically occurred along the shores of the Lakes Huron and Erie, from the Georgian and Saginaw Bays to north central Ohio and eastward along the northern shore of Lake Erie to Long Point and perhaps Buffalo (Schmidt 1941). Today the eastern fox snakes can be found from Saginaw Bay along the shore of Lake Huron south to the western edge of Lake Erie (Holman et al. 1989) in Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.
Eastern fox snakes are typically found in flat, marshy or partially drained areas. Eastern fox snakes on islands in Lake Erie are found in open, rocky habitats and woodlands. Unlike western fox snakes (E. vulpina), eastern fox snakes are rarely found in upland wooded areas. Eastern fox snakes are ground dwelling animals that are rarely found climbing trees or understory brush. (Holman, et al., 1989)
Eastern fox snakes lay anywhere from 7 to 29 eggs in June or July, which hatch in late summer. The young are similar to the adults and measure roughly 27 cm in length. (Holman, et al., 1989)
Eastern fox snakes are generally considered docile animals. They do have several defense mechanisms which they will use if they feel threatened. They will become aggressive and strike when threatened, but will normally try to avoid any confrontations. ("Point Pelee National Park; A Mimic From Among the Reptile Family.", Parks Canada. 1999.)
Eastern fox snakes feed on small mammals, frogs, birds, and occasionally bird eggs. Eastern fox snakes are constrictors, which means they kill by wrapping their bodies around the chest of their prey and squeezing until the prey eventially dies. (Holman, et al., 1989)
Eastern fox snakes are harmless snakes, there are no negative effects of these snakes on humans.
Eastern fox snakes are major predators of small rodents, which can be agricultural pests. If fox snake numbers can be kept stable they will help control small rodent numbers resulting in less crop damage in many agricultural fields.
Eastern fox snakes are currently listed as a threatened species in the state of Michigan. The loss and pollution of wetland habitats, indiscriminate killing by people who think fox snakes are venomous, illegal collecting, and road kills are all factors in the decline of fox snakes. Any sightings of this snake should be reported to local wildlife authorities. ("Eastern Fox Snake", Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999)
Fox snakes, both western and eastern, are often killed by people who mistakenly believe them to be venomous. Many people get the fox snake confused with the venomous copperhead snake due to the reddish coloring of the head. One of the defense mechanisms of the fox snake is to vibrate its tail as a warning to potential predators. This creates a sound similar to that of a rattlesnake by the rustling of the leaves beneath the snake.
When a fox snake is threatened it will secrete a strong substance which some say smells like the musty secretions of foxes, hence the name "fox snake". In many areas eastern fox snakes are referred to as "spotted adders," a local name also sometimes applied to eastern milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) in the same region. ("Eastern Fox Snake", Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999)
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Jerry Hill (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.
Hartley Outdoor Education Center. 1999. "Eastern Fox Snake" (On-line). Accessed November 14, 1999 at http://www.hoec.saginaw.k12.mi.us/Snakes/Snake.html.
Parks Canada. 1999.. "Point Pelee National Park; A Mimic From Among the Reptile Family." (On-line). Accessed November 14, 1999 at http://parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/parks/ontario/pointpelee/english/nature.
Conant, R., J. Collins.. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern/Central North America.. New york: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Holman, J., J. Harding, M. Hensley, G. Dudderar.. 1989. Michigan Snakes: A Field Guide and Pocket Reference. East Lansing: Michigan State University: Coop. Ext. Serv. Publ. E-2000.
Schmidt, K., D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes; of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.