Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)
The Northern Water snake is variable in color but most have alternating reddish brown bands that extend down the body. These bands begin to break up and do not connect but become blotches further down the midsection toward the tail. The bands that connect are wider on top and narrow on toward the bottom. Northern Water Snakes are an aquatic species that is usually found in or around streams, rivers, swamps, lakes and ponds. Although, it is not uncommon to observe this snake far away from a water source as it travels in search of a more hospitable environment. The Northern water snake is non-venomous and is not a constrictor. So, it must overpower its prey and begin swallowing them live. Prey items include more than 30 amphibian species and over 80 different fish. Many times, Northern Water Snakes can be seen basking in tree branches above the water as well as in rock crevices and vegetation along the shore. When a potential predator is spotted, the snake quickly dives into the water and disappears. If approached, the Northern Water Snake will first attempt to retreat and if picked up may bite while releasing a very fowl smelling musk from their musk glands. This snake may also writhe wildly as an attempt to escape the grasp of your hand. Another scare tactic it employs is the flattening out of its head and body in order to make it look larger. Unfortunately, the flattening of the head gives it a diamond or triangular like shape which some people mistake for a venomous snake and then kill it. Due to this snake's heavy bodied appearance, it is very often mistaken for the venomous copperhead or the cottonmouth. Northern Water Snakes are a protected species. This means that it’s illegal to harm them and possessing one is prohibited.
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