The United States is home to thousands of freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams all of which contribute to a livable habitat for many different types of water snakes. Water snakes found in the U.S. belong to the Family Colubridae and the Genus Nerodia, all other snakes are not technically water snakes. The true water snakes on this list are non-venomous and harmless to humans.
All snakes can swim and most snakes enjoy being in or near water, this doesn’t make them a true water snake. This means that garter snakes, rat snakes, king snakes, or even water moccasins aren’t actually water snakes. In this article we’re going to show you the 10 snakes that fall under the category of water snakes.
Let’s have a look!
10 types of water snakes
Let’s learn more about 10 of the different types of water snakes found in the United States.
1. Common water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon
Length: 22 – 53 in
Subspecies: northern water snake, midland water snake, Carolina water snake, Lake Erie water snake
The common water snake has 4 subspecies, the northern water snake being the most widespread. Common water snakes and its subspecies can be found throughout northern-central and northeastern North America. These snakes enjoy living as close to water as possible. Often, they’ll live in beaver lodges or muskrat houses, as they prefer living in sticks and plants near the water.
The northern water snake lives near rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, and marshes. Often, you may see these types of snakes basking in the sun on logs, rocks, or on land beside the water. These snakes may be active anytime, but tend to lounge around in the day and prefer to hunt at night. Their diet mainly consists of small fish, frogs, and worms. They’ll also eat small mammals and birds, though, when they hunt outside of the water.
2. Diamondback water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia rhombifer
Length: 3-5 feet
Subspecies: Nerodia rhombifer blanchardi, Nerodia rhombifer rhombifer, Nerodia rhombiferwerleri
The diamondback water snake is predominantly brown, dark brown or dark olive green, with a black pattern along the back, each spot being diamond-shaped. Their scales are a very rough texture and they typically grow to be about 3-4 feet long, though in some cases bigger. The underside is often a yellow or light brown color.
This snake is often confused for a venomous snake, but like all other water snakes diamondback water snakes are not venomous. They are an aggressive snake though and will release musk and fecal matter if provoked.
This species occurs in southern and central states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and into west Tennessee. The diamondback water snake enjoys basking on tree limbs above the water and hunting for its prey which includes small amphibians, lizards, mice, etc.
3. Brown water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia taxispilota
Length: 30-60 inches
The brown water snake is an Atlantic Coast snake that’s most common in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and nearby states. This species has no subspecies and occurs as far north as Virginia, but no where else in the country.
Brown water snakes are commonly seen in rivers and flowing bodies of water where fish are their main prey. They are heavy-bodied snakes that can get rather large. While they aren’t venomous, they can be aggressive if cornered so you should steer clear if you encounter one.
4. Green water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia cyclopion
Length: 30-55 inches
Green water snakes are also only found in extreme western areas of the Florida panhandle. This species is more common in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. These medium sized snakes are usually dark green or brown in color and have fairly stout bodies.
Green water snakes thrive in the state’s wetlands and prefer large amounts of vegetation in the water. They’re most active during the day and feed on small fish and amphibians. Don’t get this species confused with the Florida green water snake that we’ll show you next.
5. Florida green water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia floridana
Length: 30-55 inches
Florida green water snakes occur throughout most of Florida, and in a few nearby states like Georgia and South Carolina. They aren’t found anywhere else in the country. These medium sized snakes are usually dark green or brown in color and have fairly stout bodies.
Green water snakes thrive in Florida’s wetlands and prefer large amounts of vegetation in the water. They’re most active during the day and feed on small fish and amphibians. Florida green water snakes are not constrictors, they simply overpower their prey and quickly swallow them.
6. Banded Water Snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia Fasciata
Length: 24-42 inches
Subspecies: Florida banded water snake, broad banded water snake, southern banded water snake
The banded water snake inhabits the swamps, rivers and lakes in several southeastern states. There are 3 subspecies; the broad banded water snake to the west, the Florida banded water snake, and the southern banded water snake along the coastal plain.
Although they are harmless and non-venomous, they have a wide, flat head and dark coloration which makes them look very similar to a cottonmouth, a species with which they often share habitat.
Like the midland water snake, the banded water snake favors frogs and fish for prey. Banded water snakes can sometimes behave aggressively, counting on their venomous appearance to deter potential predators. This aggressive behavior is likely the source of the many myths about cottonmouth snakes, which actually tend to be quite reclusive.
7. Plain-bellied Water Snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster
Length: 24-40 inches
Subspecies: Plainbelly water snake, Bogert’s water snake, redbelly water snake, yellbelly water snake, copperbelly water snake, blotched water snake
Plain-bellied water snakes are named for their bellies which are often red or they can also be a very plain color. These snakes and all of the subspecies can be heavy-bodied and their bright underbodies make them stand out of other types of water snakes.
They occur from Texas to North Carolina and along the coastal plain, especially in lakes and swamps but also in rivers. They’re unusual for water snakes in that they will frequently travel long distances over land to a new body of water.
They’re also largely nocturnal, preferring to hunt during the night and spending the whole day basking in the sun. Like other water snakes, they will bite repeatedly to defend themselves, even though they aren’t venomous.
8. Concho water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia paucimaculata
Length: 16-32 inches
The Concho water snake only occurs in the Concho and Colorado River basins of the Rolling Plains in a small area of Central Texas. They can be gray or greenish-brown in color and reach close to 3 feet in length as adults.
This species was endangered for some time due to habitat loss but apparently has been making a comeback as the USFWS has proposed that it be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
9. Brazos water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia harteri
Length: 24-40 inches
The Brazos water snake is named after the Brazos River in Texas and is listed as threatened within its range there. This species also has a very limited range in Texas west of Dallas near the Brazos River drainage areas.
Unfortunately there is not a lot of information on this snake and there are few pictures available. Like the Concho water snake, they are usually green and brown in color and found near fast moving water. They’re most active in the day time and feed on frogs, salamanders, and fish.
10. Salt marsh snake
Scientific name: Nerodia clarkii
Length: 15-30 inches
The salt marsh snake has 3 recognized subspecies; the gulf salt marsh snake, the mangrove salt marsh snake, and the Atlantic salt marsh snake. They live in the brackish waters along the coastal regions from Texas to Florida, including Louisiana and even southern Alabama near the Gulf Shores coastline. Here they feed on a variety of small fish and invertebrates.
They are rather small in size in comparison to other water snakes in the Nerodia Genus of snakes. Primarily active at night, these saltwater snakes are not seen in freshwater and obtain the water they need from their prey.