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western foxsnake

western foxsnake (Pantherophis ramspotti) Photo © Drew R. Davis

Features and Behaviors

The western foxsnake adult may be up to 54 inches long. An average of 41 (range of 35 to 57) large, dark blotches are located on the midline of the back. Smaller dark blotches are present along each side. The background color is yellow to light brown. The head is orange-brown to red-brown and usually does not show distinct markings. The belly is yellow with black marks. The anal plate is divided. Scales are weakly keeled.

The western foxsnake can be found in farm fields, open areas and wetlands in extreme northwestern Illinois. When threatened, this species coils, raises its head, strikes and vibrates its tail. The vibrating tail may cause a sound to be made if it is striking dead vegetation. This beneficial snake is not venomous. It eats small rodents, small birds and bird eggs. After mating, the female lays eight to 27 eggs in June or July. The eggs stick to each other and are placed in rotting logs, rotting stumps, leaf litter or sawdust piles. The name “foxsnake” comes from an odor given off by scent glands at the base of the tail. The odor is said to be similar in smell to that of scent given off by a red fox.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae

Illinois Status: common, native