Northern Prairie Skink

Prairie Skink (Eumeces septentrionalis) – A skink living in the prairies east of the Rocky Mountains in North America.  The Prairie Skink’s length range from 5 1/4 to 8 3/4 inches (13cm to 22cm.).  Adult Prairie Skinks are brown or tan on the back and darker on the sides and have several thin lighter stripes along the sides and back.  Younger Skinks have bright blue tails whose color fades when they mature. While historically found in the Lower Arboretum, this animal has not been reported since the early 1980’s.  They are found in sandy soil habitats; pine barrens, stream banks, road cuts, or grassy areas.  Also rock outcrops and gravelly glacial outwashes.

Brown Snake

Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) – These snakes are found throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Their length ranges from 9 to 13 inches (23cm to 33cm.)Most snakes of this genus are a variation of brown in color.  The brown tends to vary according to location, from almost a brick red to nearly black.  They sometimes have a lighter colored stripe down the center of the back, and small black botches along the body, and just behind the head.  Their habitat includes bogs, swamps, marshes, moist woods, and wooded hillsides. This snake is occasionally found crossing the trails in the Lower Arboretum but since it’s so small it often goes unnoticed.

Garter snake mating 3

Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) – Garter snakes can be found almost anywhere throughout Minnesota.  Their length ranges from 18 to 26 inches (46cm to 66cm)  Most Garter snakes have a pattern of yellow stripes on a brown, black, or olive background.  Almost any habitat that is in the vicinity of water, including forests, prairies, meadows, marshes, suburbs, and vacant lots. This is the most common snake observed in the Arboretum.  They are mostly seen crossing the trails, but often a visitor only notices the movement of grass or leaves as the snake disappears into the vegetation.

Red Belly Snake

Redbelly Snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) – Red-bellied snakes are commonly found in Minnesota.  Their lengths range from 8 to 10 inches (20cm to 25cm).  They have two basic color phases: gray or reddish brown.  The belly is bright red usually and three tan or yellowish spots behind the head is common.  They can be found in boreal forests, hardwood forests, open woods, sphagnum bogs and marshes. These small snakes are the second most common snake found in the Arboretum (after the garter snake), but are so small they are often not noticed.

For more Information visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.

Reptile bios courtesy of the book Amphibians and Reptiles of the North Woods by Allen Blake Sheldon

Photo Credits:

Prairie Skink photo courtesy of,  Jim Scharosch.

Brown Snake photo courtesy of, Kat Stewart

Garter Snake photo courtesy of Markael Luterra.

Red Bellied photo courtesy