A semi-aquatic species, the eastern ribbon snake is almost always found in close proximity to water, typically basking in bushes or on logs and mounds along the water’s edge. An adept swimmer, this species will glide swiftly across the surface of water (2) (7), while on land it also moves quickly, with its head elevated (8).
The eastern ribbon snake obtains most of its food from the water, feeding mainly on small fish, salamanders and frogs (2) (3) (4) (9). It also consumes a variety of invertebrates, such as leeches, harvester ants, worms, spiders and caterpillars (5) (9). The eastern ribbon snake has occasionally been observed to feed on carrion (5).
This species shelters in thick vegetation or in burrows dug by other animals. During the winter, the eastern ribbon snake hibernates underground, in burrows, ant mounds, or rocky areas on high ground (1) (5). The eastern ribbon snake is one of the more cold-tolerant snake species in North America, being one of the last to withdraw to its hibernation sites in the autumn and one of the earliest to emerge in the spring (8). The male eastern ribbon snake usually emerges from hibernation before the female (5).
The eastern ribbon snake breeds in the spring, usually around May (5) (7). It is viviparous, giving birth to between 3 and 26 live young in July or August (3) (5) (8). The young snakes usually reach maturity at about 2 years old, at a length of around 75 centimetres (8).
Predators of the eastern ribbon snake include small mammals, such as otters, raccoons and minks, as well as a variety of other animals, including herons, and even other snakes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and large fish (5) (9). The eastern ribbon snake defends itself against these predators primarily by concealment and camouflage, and will rapidly escape into dense vegetation or water when threatened (5). It sometimes gives a display which includes coiling the body and flattening the head when confronted by a predator (5). The eastern ribbon snake rarely bites, but will thrash about and release a foul-smelling musk from its anal glands when captured (3) (5) (7).