Water snakes are non-venomous, usually harmless snakes, that are recognized by their aquatic behavior.
They spend their entire lives near bodies of water, and they’re all native to North America.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at ten types of water snakes.
- Salt Marsh Snakes
- Green Water Snakes
- Plainbelly Water Snakes
- Banded Water Snakes
- Florida Green Water Snakes
- Brazos Water Snakes
- Concho Water Snakes
- Diamondback Water Snakes
- Common Water Snakes
- Brown Water Snakes
*Note: Snakes are ranked in no particular order.
1. Salt Marsh Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia clarkii
As the name suggests, these snakes are often found in salt marshes, usually in the Southeast USA, but there is now a distinct population in Cuba.
Just like all other water snakes, they aren’t venomous and they’re harmless to people.
The majority of their day is spent in the water or very close to it, where they can grow up to 30 inches.
There are distinct coloration patterns from one population to another, so it’s possible that two snakes from the same species look nothing alike.
These types of water snakes in Louisiana are mostly nocturnal animals, feeding on small fish and crabs.
2. Green Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia cyclopion
These snakes are also found in the Southeast of the country, but their territory reaches northward to Illinois.
There, they usually live in bayous, lakes, and marshes, where they feed on small frogs and fish.
Green water snakes can grow up to 55 inches and they’re clearly heavy-bodied snakes, with a dark green or even brown coloring.
These types of water snakes in Mississippi are often dubbed the ‘Mississippi green water snakes’ because of their prevalence in the state.
3. Plainbelly Water Snake
Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster
The plainbelly water snake might be the easiest one to recognize out of all water snakes. While the body can be brown, black, or olive green – the belly is usually yellow or a light shade of red.
There are also no marks on the belly, while other water snakes usually have patterns.
They’re found everywhere in the Virginia – Texas – Florida triangle, aside from the Appalachian Mountain Range.
Like other water snakes, it is often found near water, but this is the least aquatic water snake out of all water snakes.
These types of water snakes in Arkansas will often wander away from water if it’s humid enough.
4. Banded Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia fasciata
Also known as the ‘southern water snake’, banded water snakes reach as far north as Indiana, but there are indications of invasive populations in Arizona and California (Los Angeles, to be specific).
These types of water snakes in Indiana are usually dark grey, black, or brown with light bands all over the body.
The head of the banded water snake is characteristically triangular and flat – they’re often mistaken for the cottonmouth because of this, which leads to them being killed out of fear.
However, these snakes aren’t venomous and they’re harmless to people and pets.
5. Florida Green Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia floridana
These snakes are usually found in Florida, but also in parts of Georgia and South Carolina. There, they usually inhabit slow-moving waters.
They’re usually green or brown with a few dark spots on the back.
Florida water snakes are very important members of the ecological chain – they’re prey to river otters, hawks, herons, kingsnakes, and alligators.
However, they feed on fish, small frogs, tadpoles, and salamander.
These types of water snakes in Florida don’t constrict their prey. Water snakes generally aren’t constrictors – they simply grab their prey with their strong teeth and swallow it.
6. Brazos Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia harteri
This is the rarest type of water snake. As the name suggests, they’re only found in the Brazos River in Central Texas.
Since their habitat is so limited, they’re considered to be a near-threatened species.
These types of water snakes in Texas can grow up to 32 inches and they’re usually green or brown in color.
7. Concho Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia paucimaculata
Another species endemic to Texas, Concho water snakes have a larger habitat than Brazos water snakes. They’re found in Colorado and Concho river systems, ranging through four counties in western Texas.
They’re very similar to Brazos water snakes in appearance, but they’re more red in color.
Unlike Brazos water snakes, they have no marks on their belly.
8. Diamondback Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia rhombifer
This is the southernmost type of water snake, as it can also be found in northern Mexico. In the USA, they’re mostly found near the Mississippi River system.
Because of their characteristic diamondback pattern, these animals are often confused for the venomous rattlesnake. However, they’re not venomous and they’ll run if approached.
Interestingly, these types of water snakes in Missouri have a very painful bite. Since they can’t constrict their prey, they developed very strong teeth to hold it still.
9. Common Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon
As the name suggests, this is the most common type of water snake in the USA. They can grow longer than 4 feet and develop a brown to olive green color. Their color usually becomes darker with age.
This is another type of water snake similar to cottonmouth, which often results in people killing it out of fear. Cottonmouths, however, are shorter and have a stockier body.
When defending themselves, these snakes bite very aggressively and they release musk to repel the predator, which is why it’s advised not to disturb them.
10. Brown Water Snakes
Scientific name: Nerodia taxispilota
Found on the coastline of the southeastern range in the USA, these snakes usually live in swamps and streams. They often grow up to 60 inches, with the longest ever recorded snake being 69 inches long.
They’re very dark in color with even darker blotches down their back.
This makes them easy to recognize, as water snakes usually aren’t that unicolor nor are they that dark.
Water snakes are primarily aquatic animals – they’ve adapted their entire existence to stay near water. These snakes aren’t venomous, nor are they constrictors – they kill by simply catching and swallowing prey. However, their bite is still very painful and they shouldn’t be disturbed.
They made some camouflage adaptations to help them when they’re hunting, and in some cases (like that of the diamondback water snake), they’re mistaken for venomous species and ultimately killed.