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Florida Green Water Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Nerodia floridana (GOFF 1936)

* Currently accepted name

Synonym:

* scientific names used through time

  • Natrix cyclopion floridana – GOFF 1936
  • Nerodia floridana – CONANT & COLLINS 1991

Description: Adults average from 30-55 inches (76-140 cm), record 74 inches (188 cm). Adults are thick bodied and may be greenish, brownish, or orangish, with no real distinctive markings other than dark speckling. The belly is unpatterned but light-colored, with a faint pattern beneath the tail. The head is large, with a scale between the eye and the scales on the upper lip. The scales are keeled and there are 27-29 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile color is similar to that of adults.

drawing

A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Keeled scales

Range: The Florida Green Water Snake is found throughout most of Florida, excluding the Florida Keys. Outside of Florida, it occurs into southern Georgia, and in a disjunct population in southeastern South Carolina.

Habitat: Commonly found in calm waters of prairies, marshes, lakes, ponds, hyacinth-choked canals, and estuaries.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). Like all other Water Snakes, the Florida Green Water Snake is commonly mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth. The Cottonmouth is usually darker and will typically open its mouth as a warning display, showing the bright white interior of its mouth.

It feeds on frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, and fishes. It is live-bearing. Breeding takes place from March-June. Almost all large adults (over 3.5 feet in length) are females. When gravid, females can become quite large and thick. Litters, usually around 20-30 and up to more than 100, are born from June-September.

Comparison with other species: The Mississippi Green Water Snake (Nerodia cyclopion) has a patterned belly. All other Water Snakes lack scales between the eye and the scales of the upper lip.

Harmless Water Snakes are frequently killed in the mistaken belief that they are the venomous Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). However, Cottonmouths can easily be distinguished from Water Snakes. Cottonmouths have a triangular shaped head and vertical pupil. If the head is viewed from above, the eyes of Cottonmouths cannot be seen while the eyes of Water Snakes are visible; Cottonmouths have elliptical pupils and Water Snakes have round pupils; and Cottonmouths have a facial pit between the nostril and the eye, which the Water Snakes do not.

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