Lined snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)

Lined snake
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • Secretive by nature, the lined snake is often found hiding under debris in rural or vacant urban lots, or buried within loose soil during the day.
  • The lined snake is likely to be out and about during the night, or after heavy rainfall to hunt earthworms.
  • The lined snake can be distinguished from the similar-looking common garter snake by the row of bold, black dots that run down the length of its pale belly.
  • The lined snake is passive and not known to bite, but may release an anal discharge when trying to escape capture.
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Lined snake fact file

Lined snake description

GenusTropidoclonion (1)

The lined snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum) is similar in appearance to the common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), distinguishable thanks to a double row of bold, black dots, called ‘half-moons’, that run down its pale yellow-white belly (2) (3) (4). It is olive-green to brown in colour with three pale-coloured stripes that run the length of its body (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The central dorsal stripe is the most distinctive, and is usually a pale orange colour (3) (4) (6). The stripes are bordered by black spots that are more conspicuous in younger individuals (2) (4). The lined snake has small eyes and a narrow, pointed head no wider than the body (5). Its dorsal scales are keeled, meaning they are ridged rather than smooth, and it has 19 scales along the mid-section of the body (4) (6).

Length: Up to 35 cm (2)

Lined snake biology

The lined snake is a secretive snake that can be found hiding underneath rocks, logs and man-made debris, or buried within loose soil during the day (5) (6). It is active during the night, and is sometimes referred to as a nocturnal species, although it is known to bask in the morning sun (3) (6). It is particularly likely to be actively hunting during and after heavy rainfall when there is an increased likelihood of catching earthworms (2) (3) (6). Although the lined snake is thought to feed mostly on earthworms (5), it has been known to eat woodlice (3).

The lined snake mates during late summer or autumn (2) (3). The female then stores the sperm within the oviducts during hibernation over winter, and fertilises her eggs the following spring (3) (6). Gestation takes around 70 days, and the young are born in August or September (2) (6). An average litter will contain between 4 and 10 young snakes that are about 7 to 12 centimetres in length (2) (3) (6). They are born alive and surrounded in a thin, transparent membrane (3). The lined snake grows quickly, and both sexes reach sexual maturity after two years, although males have been known to mate from as young as eight months old (6).

When threatened, the lined snake will tightly coil its tail (2) and hide its head underneath the coil, or flatten its body (6). If it is captured, it can release an anal discharge while it is trying to escape, but it is otherwise passive and not known to bite (6).


Lined snake range

The lined snake is found throughout many of the Great Plains states, from southern Minnesota south to Texas, and from Illinois in the east westwards to Colorado and New Mexico (3) (6).


Lined snake habitat

The lined snake favours grasslands with soft, moist soil (5). In rural areas, it is typically found in prairies or open woodland (2) (3) (6). In urban areas, it can be found in vacant plots of land underneath rocks, logs, leaves or other debris (3) (6). The lined snake’s habitat must be able to support earthworms, its principal food source (6).


Lined snake status

The lined snake is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Lined snake threats

There are no major threats facing the lined snake thanks to its tolerance of habitat disturbance (1) (3). However, this species is vulnerable to mortality on busy roads (3).

Carnivorous mammals, birds and other snakes prey upon the lined snake (2) (3).


Lined snake conservation

The lined snake is considered rare by the Illinois Natural History Survey due to it being found in only a few areas, mostly in vacant urban lots (2). It 2004, the lined snake was listed as threatened in Illinois as a result of loss of habitat (3).

The lined snake is a Species of Special Concern in Minnesota where it has only been seen in one area in Blue Mounds State Park (3).


Find out more

Find out more about the lined snake:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Feeding on flesh.
Relating to the back or top side of an animal.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
A winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate. In reptiles, this is also known as brumation.
Active at night.
An extensive area of flat or rolling, predominantly treeless grassland, especially the large tract or plain of central North America.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2014)
  2. Illinois Natural History Survey - Lined snake (January, 2014)
  3. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (January, 2014)
  4. Dixon, J.R. and Werler, J.E. (2005) Texas Snakes: A Field Guide. University of Texas Press, Austin.
  5. MobileReference (2009) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of North American Reptiles and Amphibians: An Essential Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of USA, Canada and Mexico. MobileReference, Boston.
  6. Degenhardt, W.G., Painter, C.W. and Price, A.H. (2005) Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Image credit

Lined snake  
Lined snake

© A. Jaszlics

Andrea Jaszlics
23796 Currant Dr.
United States
Tel: 1-303-720-9146


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