Rainbow Snake
Farancia erytrogramma

Family: Xenodontidae - Robust Rear-fanged Snakes

Typical Adult Size: 27 to 48 inches

Reproduction: egg laying

Eye Pupil: round

Dorsal Scales: smooth

Anal Scale: usually divided

SC Range Map

Additional Images

Rainbow Snakes are large snakes with red and black stripes and smooth scales. Adult size is considered to be in the range of 27 to 48 inches. The young are patterned like the adults. They are found in or near water in the coastal plain region of South Carolina. Eels are reported to be their favorite food. They are powerfully muscled.

My only natural encounter with a living Rainbow Snake was on the Edisto River in Colleton County. My wife and I were canoeing on the river. It was late April 1996 and the river was out of its banks in most locations. The current was swift, but the water was clear. It was twilight when we approached the landing. I saw and heard a splashing in the water near the vegetation line along the bank. We pulled along side and saw a large Rainbow Snake, at least 4 feet long, wrestling with a sizable eel. I could not see the entire eel, but its diameter was as large as that of the snake.

I used my tongs in an attempt to lift both the snake and eel from the water. No success. The snake was apparently entwined around some vegetation. With my wife holding the canoe in place I reached over the side and grasped the snake. The snake was strong and pulled hard against my attempt to lift it. The snake released the eel from its mouth and the eel quickly disappeared beneath the surface. The snake now resisted my efforts with its full strength.

Of course I could have easily overpowered the snake, but I did not want to harm it. So I tried to apply a steady but gentle force. The snake however made more progress than I. When fighting with the eel, the Rainbow Snake had its tail grasped around a submerged root, too deep for me to reach from the boat. In resisting my efforts, the snake pulled itself through the root. Eventually I held only the snake's head in my grasp. In my younger days I probably would have jumped into the river, but now I am not that agile. Because a snake's head is very fragile, I had no choice but to release the specimen.

Additional Images:

Rainbow Snake, Farancia erytrogramma erytrogramma
adult (DOR), approx. length = 40 inches
immature, moulting
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July 07, 2009
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians