Are There Water Snakes in Vermont?

There are 11 species of snakes live throughout the state of Vermont. There’s a certain type of snake that prefers to live in or near the water. It’s these snakes that we’re looking at in this article, the water snakes in Vermont.

All snakes are capable of swimming in water. While some rarely visit water, others are considered semi-aquatic. All true water snakes are in the Family Colubridae, in the Genus Nerodia, and are non-venomous.

Water snakes often have large, heavy bodies and are commonly mistaken for venomous snakes. While they can bite if threatened and are even regarded as aggressive in some cases, they are quite harmless if left alone.

With that being said, let’s have a look at Vermont’s one and only water snake.

Are there water snakes in Vermont?

There are currently 10 species of water snakes in this category, and all can be found in the United States. Out of these 10 species just one can be found in Vermont and that’s the northern water snake. They are common throughout most of Vermont, though not as common in the northeastern portion of the state. Here is a range map of this species.

Northern water snake

northern water snake | credit: Shenandoah National Park

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon sipedon
Adult size: 4-5 feet

The northern water snake is actually a subspecies of the common water snakes and comes in a variation of colors, including gray, tan, brown and buff. Juveniles are usually more brightly colored than adults. Adults have dark dorsal bands along their back that are present on the anterior portion of the body.

The further down their body you go, the colors change to alternating dorsal and lateral blotches. Their ventral scales, which are on their underbelly, have dark, crescent-moon shaped markings. This is just a guideline for this snake, many other types of water snakes can look very similar!

Northern water snakes range in size from 24 to 55 inches, approximately two feet to four and a half feet. As mentioned, they are fairly dark-colored. Adult females are larger than males most often. Females are live-bearers and breed April through June.

Live-bearing means they do not lay eggs, they produce live snakes, often around 12-36 babies, in the late August to early October time frame.

They are found most anywhere there is water. Specifically, they are easily found throughout the eastern half of the United States, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. They are not endangered and are actually quite a heavily populated snack in their native areas.

Habitats and diet

Northern water snakes are not picky and like a wide variety of aquatic habitats. They do prefer slow-moving or standing water, such as ponds, lakes, and marshes, but can also be found on rivers and basically any wetland area in Vermont.

These snakes spend their time swimming below the water or basking on rocks in the sun. They prefer areas more directly exposed to the sun, so shady areas should be relatively clear of this snake. The northern water snake can also be found hanging out in trees and laying out on branches.

For their diet, these snakes primarily eat fish and amphibians, swallowing them alive. They commonly eat sunfish, smallmouth bass, minnows, toads, frogs, bullfrog tadpoles, trout, catfish, etc. But they’re not picky eaters, they will eat most any animal they find. This actually makes them quite a beneficial species to have around, as they will clear out pests such as mice and rodents.

northern water snake swimming | image: USFWS Midwest Region

Demeanor

While the northern water snake isn’t venomous, they are still a wild snake and are not exactly friendly. In fact, they are quite the opposite. The common water snake is known to be fairly aggressive and will bite when handled. This bite will not cause any major harm, as they are non-venomous, but most people will still want to avoid a nasty snake bite.

The common water snake’s main defense when feeling threatened is their production of a musky secretion from the glands near their tail. They may also defecate or vomit. It’s best to always leave any snake in their natural habitat alone to avoid an unfortunate encounter.

Northern water snakes are mostly solitary animals and are primary diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day, though they will hunt at night. They hibernate in the winter and are most social immediately before and after hibernation. Quarantine vibes, anyone? During this time, you may see groups of common water snakes basking together on rocks and enjoying the sun.

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