Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)


Family Colubridae

Northern Water Snake

Common Name:

Northern Water Snake


Scientific Name:

Nerodia sipedon sipedon

Photo of Adult Northern Watersnake courtesy of  Scott A. Smith

Photo of Adult Northern Watersnake courtesy of Scott A. Smith ​


Size:
24 - 42 inches. Record - 55⅛ inches.

Appearance:
  • A highly variable species, but typically heavy-bodied with a large rounded head.
  • Often mistaken for “water moccasins” which do not occur in Maryland.
  • They have a back pattern of black to reddish-brown blotches which may form crossbands.
  • Older individuals may appear one dark color, but close examination should reveal some blotches.
  • Reddish-brown to orange-brown “half-moons” on a creamy yellow to pink belly.
  • Keeled scales.
  • Young are strongly patterned black on a pale gray or light brown background.

Close-up Photo of Northern Watersnake - courtesy of  John White
Close-up Photo of Northern Watersnake
courtesy of John White


Habitats:

Can be found in or near every type of wetland habitat, from rivers to lakes, and bogs to ponds. Even lives in brackish marshes.


How to Find:

Walk along wetland edges, particularly where there is slow-moving water. Look for basking individuals near escape cover. Warning: water snakes have a reputation for being ill humored. They will readily bite and “musk” upon handling. Non-venomous.

Photo of Northern Watersnake Habitat - courtesy of Tony Procheska
Photo of Northern Watersnake Habitat
courtesy of Tony Procheska


Distribution in Maryland:

This snake is found commonly throughout Maryland.​

Northern Watersnake - Distribution in Maryland