The 3 Kinds of Water Snakes in Iowa (Pictures)

There are 10 species of snakes that fall under the Genus Nerodia, more commonly referred to as water snakes. Water snakes are nonvenomous colubrid snakes that exhibit highly aquatic behavior. All of these species are native to North America and occur in the United States. In this article we’re going to learn about the water snakes in Iowa.

Iowa has 56,272 square miles of land, but also 34 naturally occurring lakes and 2,340 miles of the Mississippi river. All of this water creates a great habitat for many types of aquatic wildlife, including reptiles like snakes. In particular, this makes many parts of the state a great home for water snakes.

Let’s take a look at which water snakes you can find in the state of Iowa!

The 3 Types of Water Snakes in Iowa

The 3 species of water snakes in Iowa are the northern water snake, diamondback water snake, plain-bellied water snake.

1. Northern Water Snake

Common water snake on a log

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

The common water snake, also known as the northern water snake, is the most populated type of water snake and is very easy to find in eastern Iowa. This snake is a light brown or gray color with red or dark brown cross-bands and splotches along its back or sides. On average, the common water snake is between two and three and a half feet.

This snake commonly is found basking on logs and rocks. They also commonly inhabit reservoirs in the limestone that lines all of the rivers’ shorelines. It’s clear to see why this snake enjoys almost all of Iowa, a state populated with water sources.

They are live-bearers, meaning that instead of laying eggs, they give birth to 10-15 live young in the late summer.


2. Diamondback Water Snake

diamondback water snake | source: USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Nerodia rhombifer

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 2 and a half to 3 and a half feet long. The underside is often a yellow or light brown color.

This snake is often confused for venomous copperheads, but is not poisonous. They are an aggressive snake though and will release musk and fecal matter if provoked. The diamondback water snake enjoys basking on tree limbs above the water and hunting for its prey which includes small amphibians, lizards, mice, etc.

They are only found in extreme southeastern Iowa.


3. Yellowbelly Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster

The plain-bellied water snake is rare in Iowa and only occurs in the extreme southeastern corner of the state. The plain-bellied water snake averages two and a half feet to four feet long and has a gray or green/grey back without markings. Their belly tends can range from yellow with a touch of orange, to red, to a plain color, hence their name.

This species prefers the quiet waters of swamps, sloughs, lakes, and ponds. They bask on logs in shallow water, on branches above the water, or along the shore. They are not venomous, but will strike or bike if threatened or cornered.

They feed off of fish, toads, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, and crayfish, all of which are common alongside the Mississippi river that runs through Iowa. They are mostly contained to the southern region of the state.

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