The Northern Water Snake
, Nerodia sipedon
, is a large, non-venomous, well-known snake
in the Colubridae
family that is native to North America. They are active during the day and at night. They are most often seen basking on rocks, stumps, or brush. During the day, they hunt among plants at the water's edge, looking for small fish
, small birds
. At night, they concentrate on minnows
and other small fish sleeping in shallow water. It was once an endangered species but now benefits from the introduction of round goby
, an invasive species
Northern Water Snakes grow over four feet long. They can be brown, gray, reddish, or brownish-black. They have dark crossbands on their necks and dark blotches on the rest of their bodies, often leading to misidentification as cottonmouths
by novices. They tend to darken as they age. Some will become almost completely black. The belly of this snake also varies in color. It can be white, yellow, or gray. Usually it also has reddish or black crescents.
Northern Water Snakes mate from April through June. They are live-bearers, which means they do not lay eggs like most snakes. Instead, they carry them inside their bodies and give birth to baby snakes, each one six to twelve inches long. A female may have as many as thirty young at a time. Babies are born between August and October. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, they are on their own.
Defense against predators
Northern Water Snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons
, snapping turtles
, and other snakes. They defend themselves vigorously when they are threatened. If they are picked up by an animal, or person, they will bite, as well as release excrement and musk
. Their saliva
contains an anticoagulant
which can cause its wounds caused by biting to bleed profusely.
Northern Water Snakes often share winter dens with copperheads
and black rat snakes
houses and beaver
lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems. They live near lakes, ponds, marshes, in peoples houses, rivers, and canals; just about anywhere there is water.