Western Fox Snake

Elaphe vulpina

The western fox snake is a large snake with big, dark blotches. It is found mainly along the St. Croix, Mississippi, and Minnesota rivers. The western fox snake doesn't look anything like a fox. It got its name because when it is handled it gives off a musky odor similar to that of a red fox.


General description: This long snake has large, dark splotches on most of its body and dark rings on its tail. In young western fox snakes, the head has a black line from the eye to the jaw, and another across the top between the eyes. Western fox snakes do not have rattles.

Size: Fox snakes can reach over 5 feet in length. It is among Minnesota's longest snakes.

Color: The background color of the western fox snake is yellow to dark brown. The markings are brown or black. The western fox snake's belly is yellow with black marks. Adults have an unmarked bronze colored head.

Sound: Although it lacks rattles, the western fox snake can make a rattly sound when it shakes its tail. It also may hiss when threatened.


Western fox snakes mate in the spring. The female lays 10 to 20 eggs in mid to late summer. The young hatch in late summer to fall. Newly hatched western fox snakes are 8 to 12 inches long.


A western fox snake eats mice, birds, frogs, and other small animals. It kills its prey by wrapping around it and squeezing it to death.


Hawks, foxes, and coyotes.

Fox Snake

Habitat and range

Western fox snakes live in forest edge habitats. They are often found along forested edges of our larger rivers. They are not common in urban areas but are found around farms and houses in rural areas. This snake usually won't come into a house, but can be found in sheds, barns, or other buildings where rodents are present.

Population and management

The western fox snake does not have special status in Minnesota, which means its population is likely doing fine.

Fun facts

Western fox snakes tend to be active during daytime in the spring and fall. During the summer, they may be active at night. They can swim and climb. Although they don't have rattles and aren't venomous, people often confuse them with rattlesnakes because they sometimes will shake their tails, hiss, and strike when threatened.

Range map: fox snake

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