Squamata

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)


Family Colubridae

Red-bellied Watersnake

Common Name:

Red-bellied Watersnake​


Scientific Name:

Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster

Photo of Red-bellied Watersnake courtesy of Dave Wilson
​ Photo of Red-bellied Watersnake courtesy of Dave Wilson

Size:
30 - 48 inches. Record - 62 inches.

Appearance:
  • A rich, chocolate brown to ebony black back, with strongly keeled scales.
  • Diagnostic feature is the deep red to orange-red unmarked or plain belly, which contrasts abruptly with the back coloration.
  • The red is usually visible on the throat and along the lower jaw.
  • Thick-bodied and “bread loaf” shaped in cross-section.
  • Young are boldly patterned black on a pinkish ground color.

 

Photo of Red-bellied Watersnake courtesy of John White
Photo of Red-bellied Watersnake courtesy of John White

Habitats:

Forested riparian areas, particularly Atlantic White-cedar and Baldcypress Swamps, and shrub swamps, from brackish to tidal fresh waters of coastal plain rivers. May travel considerable distances from water during humid periods of mid-summer. All records are from the lower Eastern Shore where it may be locally common, though rarely seen.​


How to Find:

Drive (or bike) slowly on roads near swamps in mid-summer looking for animals basking in the road or road-killed individuals. Warning: Will readily inflict a painful bite when handled. Non-venomous. Please report any sightings or road kills to DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service as this species is tracked as a rare Watchlist species.

Photo of Habitat for Red-bellied Watersnake courtesy Rebecca Chalmers
Photo of Habitat for
Red-bellied Watersnake
courtesy Rebecca Chalmers


Distribution in Maryland:

Found only on the Lower Eastern Shore.​

 

Red-bellied Watersnake- Distribution in Maryland