western fox snake

(Mintonius ramspotti)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

western fox snake


N5 - Secure

S4 - Apparently Secure


Species in Greatest Conservation Need


Common in the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota River valleys, uncommon or absent elsewhere.

  Photo by James Folden

Moist places. Prairies, agricultural fields, woodland openings and edges, lowland meadows, river bottoms, and rocky outcroppings near water.


17 years


36 to 56


This is a medium-sized to large, nonvenomous, typical snake, one of the four largest snakes in Minnesota. Adults are usually 36 to 56 in length.

The body is light brown, yellowish-tan, or gray with an upper (mid-dorsal) row of large blotches and on each side a lateral row of smaller alternating blotches. The blotches are dark brown and are bordered with black. The dorsal blotches on most of the body are wider than long. Toward the head they are long an narrow. On the tail they become rings. On average there are 43 dorsal spots between the head and the anal opening (cloaca). The belly is pale yellow with smaller black or brown markings in an irregular checkerboard pattern. The head is reddish and mostly unmarked. The dorsal scales are weekly keeled and the lateral scales are smooth.

Young snakes have a lighter background color, a dark bar between the eyes, and a dark line from the eye to the back of the jaw.




Mice and other small rodents, birds, and bird eggs. Young may also eat frogs.

Life Cycle

Adults emerge from hibernation in April. Mating occurs from April to July. After mating, the female lays a clutch of 7 to 29, usually about 14, leathery, 1½ to 2 long eggs. The eggs hatch in July or August. In October adults hibernate in rocky crevices or man-made structures that extend below the frost line.


In the spring and fall adults move about during the day. In the hot summer they move about at night. When confronted they will often vibrate their tails producing a buzzing sound. In leaf litter or dry grass the sound resembles that of a rattlesnake. When handled it will often release a musky, fox-like odor, from which it gets its common name.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 11, 14, 24, 29, 74.


The classification of this species has been in flux in recent years. Prior to 2002 it was classified as Elaphe vulpina. Following mitochondrial DNA analysis in that year all rat snakes in North America north of Mexico were transferred to the older genus, Pantherophis, and this species was given the name Pantherophis vulpinus by some authorities, Pantherophis ramspotti by others. However, that genus change was controversial and was not accepted by all authorities. After further molecular and morphological analysis in 2010 it was separated from the older genus and is now classified as Mintonius ramspotti. All four names are currently in use by sources both in print and online.



Squamata (amphisbaenians, lizards, and snakes)



Serpentes (snakes)






Colubridae (colubrids, typical snakes)





Elaphe vulpina

Pantherophis ramspotti

Pantherophis vulpinus


western fox snake

western foxsnake










The single posterior cavity, often called the vent, that serves as an opening for the release of intestinal waste, urinary waste, and sperm in most vertebrates (except most mammals) and some invertebrates.


Visitor Photos
Share your photo of this reptile.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Bayleigh Winzenburg

I think this is a young western fox snake?

  western fox snake   western fox snake
  western fox snake    
James Folden

Young western fox snake

  western fox snake    
Brian Johnson
  western fox snake    
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos



  Western Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)
Michael Taylor
  Western Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)  
  Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)
Pierson Hill
  Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinus)  



Visitor Videos
Share your video of this reptile.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more videos or YouTube link(s) and, if you like, a caption.

James Folden
  western fox snake 01
Published on May 14, 2018
Other Videos
  Fox Snake strike and rattlesnake mimicry

Published on Apr 28, 2012

A moment of excitement at work as we happen upon a fox snake (Elaphe vulpina) and have to relocate him (or her) away from the herbicide

  Fox snake striking
Reptile and Amphibian Video

Uploaded on Oct 25, 2007

Aggressive fox snake in a defensive posture striking at the camera

  Iowa Reptiles Episode 4: Fox Snake

Uploaded on Apr 21, 2008

This is another video from the Demastus Boys where we show off a beautiful Fox Snake caught in Banner Lakes State Park.

  Fox Snake

Uploaded on Jul 20, 2011

The fox snake has a well-camouflaged brown and beige body and grows up to five feet. As a member of the rat snake family, this snake constricts its prey. When DuPage County was once farmed and contained thousands of acres of corn and grain fields, rodents were plentiful; the fox snake kept the rodent population in check in former DuPage. Today, the fox snake lives in grassy areas in DuPage forest preserves. This fox snake is used in educational programs about native wildlife at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. It is handled by naturalist Kevin Luby. Willowbrook is owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

  Minnesota Fox Snake
TeeJay5085's channel

Published on May 5, 2013

Large adult male Fox snake just emerged from hibernation. Details of video show typical 'tail rattling' in dry leaves. (And the main reason why some people think we still have Rattlesnakes in the Minnesota River Valley)




Visitor Sightings
Report a sighting of this reptile.
This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.

Jim Folden

Location: Minneiska, MN : Wabasha County

I think this is a young western fox snake?

western fox snake


Location: Silver Lake near Cumberland  Wisconsin

Jim Folden

Location: LeSueur county, gravel road outside the Kasota prairie

western fox snake

Brian Johnson

Location: Afton State Park

I sighted this fox snake at Afton State Park sunning itself on the path near to main parking lot on September 20th.

western fox snake

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings





Created: 10/14/2014

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2020 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.