Added 15 April 2006. Last updated 7 July 2013: updated Introduction and Bibliography.

A Look at the Family Colubridae


Queen- and Crayfish Snakes



A genus of small brownish semiaquatic snakes confined mainly to the eastern US, with one species also found in south-eastern Canada. Regina are specialist feeders, taking mainly crayfish as well as other aquatic invertebrates.

Regina are related to Nerodia and share some characteristics, such as their abilities to swim and to discharge a foul-smelling musk if disturbed. All have a dark brown dorsum and lighter underside, and have 19 dorsal scale rows. The snakes are found around streams, bogs, bayous and swamps.

According to Conant and Collins Regina make poor captives because of their very precise demands, and therefore until such advances in our understanding of this genus as allow a reasonable chance of survivability in captivity, it is probably best for non-specialists to leave them in the wild. Mara notes his own experience with unsuccessfully trying to get a juvenile R. grahami to take anything other than soft-shelled crayfish: the snake even refused various forms of crayfish meat, presumably requiring a live specimen.




R. alleni, Striped Crayfish Snake

R. grahami, Graham's Crayfish Snake 

R. rigida, Glossy Crayfish Snake 

R. septemvittata, Queen Snake




Common Name


Adult size



R. alleni

Striped Crayfish Snake

USA (Florida and S Georgia)

13-20", max 25"

Found in dense vegetation in shallow water. May travel overland at twilight, especially in rainy or humid conditions. Scalation: 1 internasal scute; 2 nasals meet each other on middorsal line of snout. Scales smooth except in anal region, keeled on top of tail. Anal divided. Coloration: broad yellowish ventrolateral stripe; 1 dorsal and 1 lateral obscure dark stripes; ventrally usually yellowish and plain, but sometimes orange or orange-brown, and this colour may also be the colour of the lateral stripe. If ventral markings present, may take form of a few scattered smudges or a long row of spots. Reproduction: young resemble adults and measure 6¼-7" at birth.

R. grahami

Graham's Crayfish Snake

USA (Iowa and Illinois south to Louisiana and Texas; also NE Illinois and NW Arkansas; absent from some parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma)

18-28", max 47"

In addition to the usual crayfish, this species may also take small amphibians and fish. Scalation: keeled; anal divided. Coloration: broad yellow stripe runs along dorsal rows 1-3; narrow black ventrolateral stripe. Ventrally yellowish; may be unmarked, dotted or with a dull dark area down the centre. Some individuals from Iowa are dorsally entirely brown with the pattern very obscured, ventrally deep olive-buff and with yellow chin and throat. Reproduction: young measure 7½-10" at birth.

R. rigida

Glossy Crayfish Snake

USA (Atlantic coastal plain from North Carolina to N/C Florida, west to E/C Texas; also W/C Mississippi and E Virginia) 

14-24", max 31"

Found in lowland areas, but very secretive and usually only seen at night or after heavy rains. In addition to crayfish, may also take frogs, salamanders and small fish. Scalation: keeled; anal divided. Coloration: plain brown or olive-brown but shiny in appearance; dark stripes may just be visible on dorsum, more likely so ventrolaterally. 2 ventral longitudinal rows of dark spots which remain visible even if centre of belly becomes darker with pigmentation, as may happen in large individuals. Reproduction: young are about 6½-9" at birth. 

R. r. rigida

USA (Atlantic coastal plain from North Carolina to N/C Florida also E Virginia) 

Scalation: subcaudals usually 54 or less in females, 62 or less in males. Coloration: pattern of narrow dusky stripes follows edge of scales on sides of throat. 

R. r. deltae

Delta Crayfish Snake

SE Louisiana, adj. Mississippi

Scalation: differs in having only 1 preocular scale on at least one side of the head; number of subcaudals subtracted from number of ventrals is usually 81 or more in females, 73 or more in males. 

R. r. sinicola

Gulf Crayfish Snake

USA (Gulf coastal plain from SW Georgia to SE Mississippi, and from Louisiana west to E/C Texas and SE Oaklahoma and north to S Arkansas; also W/C Mississippi) 

Scalation: subcaudals usually 55 or more in females, 63 or more in males. Coloration: lacks pattern on throat. 

R. septemvittata

Queen Snake, Willow Snake, Leather Snake

SE Canada (S Ontario), USA (SW New York and SE Pennsylvania south to Gulf Coast at border of Florida and Alabama, west to SE Wisconsin and E Mississippi; also Arkansas and SW Missouri, N Michigan and extreme SW Mississippi)

15-24", max. 36¼" 

Found predominantly in small stony creeks and rivers. Diet is overwhelmingly soft crayfish that have just moulted. Scalation: keeled; anal divided. Coloration: overall brown with ventrolateral yellow stripe on 1st-2nd scale row. 3 very obscure dark dorsal stripes. Ventrally yellow but with four brown stripes, of which the two outer are larger and straddle the edge of the ventral plates and the 1st scale rows. The 4 stripes are clearest towards the neck and merge towards the rear, especially in adults. Southern specimens tend to be almost completely lack the patterning, traces of which may only be visible in the neck region. Reproduction: young are about 6¾-10½" at birth; their ventral stripes are clearly defined, usually all the way to the tail.  



Crayfish are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem in North America. North Carolina Crayfishes: Life at the Bottom is an interesting introduction to these freshwater crustaceans.


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