8 species of water snakes found

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There are many types of water snakes found throughout the United States. They all belong to the genus Nerodia, and their most notable feature is their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Some live throughout the eastern United States, while others live only in selected rivers.

Water snakes are not poisonous, but some look more like more dangerous snakes, such as the cottonmouth. They vary in size from a few feet to around five feet. Most are brown or olive green with regular markings on the body. Also, they are not dangerous to humans.

Let's take a look at the eight most common types of water snakes.

rattlesnake water snake

Rhomboid Water Snake
The scientific name of the diamond water snake is Nerodia rhombifer.

© Laurie L. Snidow/Shutterstock.com

Often confused with the similar-looking cottonmouth, diamondback moths are non-venomous and non-aggressive. They feed primarily on catfish, amphibians, small snakes, baby turtles, insects, crayfish, and small mammals. When threatened, they spew musk from their anal glands to deter predators.

Rattlesnakes live throughout the eastern United States, near permanent water sources such as ponds, lakes, and rivers. These mammoth snakes can grow up to 5 feet long and give birth to as many as 50 young at a time. They are yellow to brown in color and have a distinct dark hexagonal ring surrounding their body.

brown water snake

brown water snake
The scientific name of the brown water snake is Nerodia taxispilota.

©iStock.com/csraphotography

Like diamondback moths, brown water snakes feed primarily on fish, with catfish being their favorite. It can grow up to five feet long and has a thick and heavy body. Brown water snakes are excellent swimmers and will flee into the water when threatened. They are only found near permanent water sources, as fish make up the majority of their diet.

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banded water snake

banded water snake
Also known as the southern water snake, the banded water snake's scientific name is Nerodia fasciata.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Banded water snakes live in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. They prefer flowing water sources such as rivers, cypress creeks, and canals, but also live in lakes and marshes. Their prey mainly includes frogs, salamanders, salamanders, toads, crayfish, fish and tadpoles. They are not aggressive, but will bite if threatened or provoked. Females give birth to 15-20 pups at a time.

Banded water snakes range in color from yellowish red to brownish gray, with darker stripes on the back and a lighter belly. It is smaller than other species of water snakes, reaching up to 3-3.5 feet in length, but is quite heavy for its size.

northern water snake

Northern water snake in water
The scientific name of the northern water snake is Nerodia sipedon.

©iStock.com/manuellacoste

Northern water snakes live in many places in the eastern United States. Unlike many water snakes, though, they aren't found in Florida or along the southeastern coast. They also lived as far north as the southern shores of the Great Lakes. They are most likely to be found in ponds, rivers, lakes and swamps.

Northern water snakes eat amphibians and fish; they are semi-aquatic and bask out of the water. Like many species of water snakes, they like to lie on rocks near water or hang from branches overhanging the water. They grow to 2-4.5 feet long and can be identified by their yellow to gray bodies and darker spots.

Vegetarian Hydra

Flat-bellied hydrat - Yellow-bellied hydrat
Flat-bellied hydras eat frogs, toads, and newts.

©/Shutterstock.com

These snakes can grow up to four feet long; unfortunately, people often mistake them for venomous cottonmouths and kill them on the spot. They eat salamanders, frogs, toads, fish and crayfish. Unlike other species of water snakes, the flat-bellied water snake (and its subspecies) will flee to land when threatened. Males are smaller than females and can produce up to 55 pups per litter.

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green water snake

Mississippi Green Water Snake
G Green water snakes are also known as Mississippi green water snakes.

©Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com

As the name suggests, the Mississippi green water snake can be found all over Mississippi. It is also common as far north as Illinois and as far east as Florida. Like other water snakes, they are semi-aquatic and feed primarily on fish, amphibians and rodents.

Adult green water snakes can reach a length of 4.5 feet. They have a heavy body that tends to be dark green with darker markings on the back and sides and a lighter belly. They are not aggressive, but will bite if threatened.

concho water snake

This water snake is only found in a few restricted areas in central Texas. It is considered endangered due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and water pollution. Unlike other water snakes that live in still water, Concho water snakes only inhabit flowing rivers.

Concho water snakes are small for a water snake—an adult is about three feet long. They range in color from tan to reddish brown with slightly darker checkerboard markings on their backs. Their diet consists almost entirely of fish and small fish.

Brazos Water Snake

Brazos water snakes get their name from the only river in the world where they can be found – the Brazos River in Texas. Due to their rarity, they are listed as a threatened species. Like the Concho water snake, the Brazos water snake lives only in moving water sources. They prefer areas with little vegetation and prefer to bask on rocky rivers with rocky outcrops.

These snakes range in color from dark brown to green or gray. They have a four-row checkerboard pattern with dark spots and pale bellies. Their heads are more triangular in shape than those of other species of water snakes. However, they are non-toxic and pose no danger to humans.

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featured image

Banded water snake in water
Banded water snakes can grow up to five feet long.

© iStock.com/Darlene Capps


about the author

Brandi Allred


Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She has degrees in English and Anthropology and writes horror, science fiction and fantasy stories in her spare time.

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