Skip Navigation

Species Search:
threatened and/or endangered

Northern Water Snake Nerodia sipedon


enlarge +

Northern Water Snake, Common subspecies
credit: Patrick Coin

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Colubridae, Colubrid Snakes view all from this family

Description Brown, gray, reddish, or brownish-black. They have dark crossbands on their necks and dark stripes and blotches on the rest of their bodies, often leading to misidentification as cottonmouths or copperheads by novices.21-25 rows of keeled scales. Divided anal plate.

Dimensions 55.9-140.5cm. (22-55 1/8")

Endangered Status The Lake Erie Water Snake, a subspecies of the Northern Water Snake, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in Ohio, where it lives in Lake Erie on offshore islands and their surrounding waters. Like many other threatened and endangered species, this snake has suffered at the hands of humans, mainly from the development of its habitat. It is often killed by people who mistake it for a venomous snake.

Warning All water snakes in the genus Nerodia will bite if harassed. Their bite is not venomous. The Northern will strike repeatedly, and wounds caused by the bite will bleed profusely because of the anticoagulant quality of the snake's saliva. Northern Water Snakes are often mistaken for venomous Cottonmouths and killed on sight.

Subspecies Common - Spaces between marks smaller than marks on back. Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee through Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota, Ontario and Quebec.
Lake Erie - Absent back marking. Lake erie.
Midland - Space between marking bigger than markings. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, louisiana, Indiana, Illinois to Oklahoma.
Carolina - Black marks on underside. North Carolina Outer Banks.

Breeding Breeds April-June. August-October 8-99 live young born, 16.5-30cm. (6 1/2-12") long.

Habitat Aquatic habitats.

Range North Carolina to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Colorado, Minnesota, Ontario and Quebec.

Discussion Acitve day & night. Basks on rocks or logs. Diet of frogs, salamanders, young turtles, crustaceans, small mammals or fish, hunts among vegetation during the day. Flattens body if unable to flee when threatened, if cornered will strike.