Friday, May 29, 2009

Northern Water Snake



This is the Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). This species is non-venomous, but very aggressive. They are commonly found in lakes, ponds and other waterways. They are native to the United States and can grow to be quite large at around 5 feet in length with females generally larger than males. They are a thick bodied snake and have a large head that is somewhat arrow shaped. This snake is often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin as it is also known by. Many of these snakes meet an untimely demise because of this mistaken identity. You will find these snakes resting in trees near water, along the bank or perhaps on a log floating in the water. They feed on crawfish, frogs, weak or sickly fish, small mammals (that wonder to close to shore), leeches, worms etc. Sometimes though the predator becomes the prey and these snakes are fed on by raccoons, opossums, skunks, fox, snapping turtles or perhaps other snakes. They will fight aggressively if disturbed, they will bite without hesitation and excrete a musky fluid that smells terrible. They have an anticoagulant which can cause the wound from the bite to bleed profusely. These snakes, while being beneficial are better off left alone. These snakes begin looking for mates in April and will breed through June. They bear live young and up to 30 may be born. They are on their own from birth, the mother does not care for them. These snakes are active during the day and night. During the night they will be found in the shallows feeding on minnows and small fish. They will use beaver huts and muskrat dens to hide out in. In the winter they will hibernate with copperhead and other snakes. The first picture was sent to me by a good friend named Chris Coffer, he told me while he was out fishing it slithered across his foot and went into the water. He wasn't sure what kind of snake it was. The second picture I took 2 years ago at our pond in Fillmore. There were many of these snakes all around our pond. Many of them hanging in the trees like the one pictured. I've heard stories where people have even been chased by these snakes or had their fishing poles attacked by them. It can be intimidating to have them rushing at you. Especially if you are under the mistaken belief it is a cottonmouth. In north western Missouri where I live you will not find Cottonmouths. They reside in the southern portion of the state, and are now even found south of St. Louis in the Mermac River. Identifying this snake can be somewhat difficult as their patterns vary highly. They are usually tan or brown with broad darker colored bands. These dark bands will be wider than the lighter colored spaces between the bands. Look for them next time you are fishing, and try not to run when they come after you...hehehe

11 comments:

  1. we have snakes in our pond where we swim and we're unsure what to do. Most recently it seemed as though they were guarding an area and blocking us from our normal exit out of the pond. I don't want these snakes in our pond what can I do? I don't really care if they're poisonous or not, this is where I cool off and endure the hot weather. If they stayed in other parts of the HUGE pond I wouldn't mind, but now they're haning out right in the small area we've always swam in for the past two years. Some suggest ecathincg them in nets. I'd have to find a net first and you have no idea how hard it is to get things when you live in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I'd like to know what you think. Thanks a lot. Take care,
    sdmcilrath@hotmail.com

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  2. I just sent you an email. I can sympathize with your situation. I will work hard to help you find a resolution.

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  3. You do not show the underbelly of the snake. I caught a small 31" snake on one of my snag lines He or she is brown on the sides with a yellow stripe right down the spine & one on each side. The under belly is of a light greenish color. He was already dead when I found him. I suppose the treble was what done him in as it was about 6" in. I do not know what kind of snake it is. I am in central MO and used a small treble with gut wrapped around it. I know this one is aggressive as well because I caught a smaller one by hand & he was razor sharpe & there is a very large one in the same lake about 3 or 4 inches @ his thickest & I have been after hinm for a long time. If it helps I can send you pics. I do want to be careful if my snake of choice is venomous. I, for some reason have lost my fear of wild snakes because I have one Ball Python & used to have a burmese python.
    Thanks
    You can contact me @ nosferatu65202@yahoo.com

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  4. I'm new to MO from SWFL, and enjoy the conservation area about 20 miles south of Jefferson City. Today I was on the lake there and a snake swam past me with markings like the swimming pic here. I saw it again as I was pulling my little boat onto the bank. It was obviously unafraid of me, but did seem to be tolerant of my presence when I showed no aggression. Good to know its a tree climber. I don't need that surprise. Still getting to know the fauna here. Delightful state!

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  5. Welcome to Missouri Camper Lady. Although we are completely different in climate and habitat than Florida I think you will come to love Missouri.
    Water snakes are harmless, fortunately; because if they had the potential of backing up that terrible attitude with venom or some other means of hurting us, we would be in trouble for sure. We see a lot of these water snakes here in the NW corner of Missouri and each has a different personality. Some will hide, some will watch you, and some have been known to chase you...or at least give the illusion they are giving chase by darting at you....it will get a person moving fast...LOL

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  6. My son killed a snake today with these exact markings except that his coloring was very much red. My son mistook it for a copperhead, but it was in the water. 1. Do copperheads swim? 2. Is it possible that it was a red variation of a Northern Water snake?

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  7. Do u live in Missouri? I'm sorry your son had to kill the snake, I am pretty sure it was a harmless water snake. They can vary in color from gray , brown to a reddish color...and the color will look different when wet or dry. That being said, yes copperheads can swim. I posted about copperheads on my other blog MObugs a few days ago, you might look at those pics and see how they compare to the snake your son found.http://mobugs.blogspot.com If you look at the first picture of this post of the water snake in a tree, it has a decidedly reddish tint to it. I hope this was somewhat helpful.

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  8. We live on the James River here in MO. We have been seeing a lot of snakes in the water. My question is do juvenile cottonmouths look the same as adults?

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  9. Juvenile cottonmouths (A.K.A Water Moccasin) have a greenish-yellow tail for the first 2 years of their life. They will also open their mouth wide and flash the cottony inside as a warning if disturbed.

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  10. I recently went fishing with both my daughters on the James River just outside Nixa Missouri. We had some luck with the fishing but also encountered four water snakes. One came at them while I was 100 yards down stream, needless to say, I came running in fear of them getting bit.
    I splashed some water and it went on about it's business.

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  11. I recently found one on my front porch sunning itself I followed it back to it den under my tomatoes plant its strange seeing it cause I don't live near any water but I went out and got a deep dish of water which it now spends all its time in iv been putting small fish in there and it loves them its only maybe 10inches long.

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