Northern Water Snake

Nedordia sipedon sipedon are fairly melanistic in our neck of the woods.The species, with four subspecies in the east, is highly variable in coloration and patterning, but these dark ones are the only versions I’ve seen.There is some lighter coloring and markings on their underside, as these chins suggests.They can get up to five feet in length.A very nice look at the keeled scales in the pictures above and below. The keel, or ridge, along the center of each scale is quite prominent in this species. Figuring out if your snake has keeled or smooth scales is a good first step in identification. For instance, the somewhat similar Racer (Coluber constrictor) has unkeeled scales.These things will eat a huge variety of fish and amphibians; young ones will go for invertebrates, too.Snake-killers, a particularly nasty subspecies of H. sapiens, often target this species (as well as other harmless snakes) because they’re mistaken for cottonmouths or other venomous snakes. Fish-killers, and their game warden allies, also kill this species because they mistakenly think the snakes are serious competition for game fish.

2 Responses to “Northern Water Snake”

  1. 1 Fred November 16, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    I wonder where you find only “melanistic” water snakes? General locality data would be good, without sufficient details that might cause the snakes to be endangered by collectors.

    Do you have any photographs of the ventral (underside) of one or more of these water snakes?

    Does any banding (no matter how faint) become visible if one of these snakes is immersed in water?


    • 2 mthew November 17, 2020 at 6:32 am

      New Jersey. No photos of ventral. The water is swampy, quite dark. In Whit Gibbon’s Snakes of the Eastern US, he says “large adult northern water snakes are often melanistic” and puts the range of N. s. sipedon from ME to WI, dipping down to VA and a touch of NC/TN

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