Prairie Ring-Necked Snake
Ring-necked snakes are easily recognizable by their small size, uniform dark color on the back, bright yellow-orange belly, and distinct yellow ring around the neck. The back can be dark brown, gray, or blue-black. The belly is yellow, changing to orange near the tail. The belly also has small, black spots that are irregular in size and pattern.
When alarmed, this species will coil its tail and expose its brightly colored underside. When captured, they usually do not bite but will discharge a pungent, unpleasant musk from glands at the base of the tail, along with fecal matter.\
Similar species: The Mississippi ring-necked snake (D. punctatus stictogenys) is the subspecies found in extreme southeastern Missouri. It is smaller, its neck ring may be narrower or interrupted on the back, it has a yellow belly, and the small black belly spots are usually in 2 or 3 lengthwise rows.