Redbelly Water Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster (FORSTER 1771)
* Currently accepted name

Synonym:
* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber erythrogaster – FORSTER 1771
  • Tropidonotus erythrogaster – HOLBROOK 1842
  • Nerodia erythrogaster – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Natrix fasciata erythrogaster – COPE 1888
  • Natrix sipedon erythrogaster – ALLEN 1932
  • Natrix erythrogaster – BURT 1935
  • Natrix erythrogaster erythrogaster – CONANT 1958
  • Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster – CONANT & COLLINS 1991

Description: Average adult size is 28-48 inches (71.1-121.9 cm), record is 62 inches (157.4 cm). Adults are heavy-bodied with reddish-brown to no patterning on the back. The belly, neck, and labial scales are reddish-orange. The scales are keeled, and there are 23 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juveniles are grayish-brown with distinct dark crossbands and blotches, with pale yellow or pinkish bellies.

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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: In Florida, it is found from the northern peninsula west throughout the panhandle. In the western panhandle it intergrades (interbreeds) with the Yellowbelly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster). Outside of Florida, it is found from southern Alabama northeast along the Atlantic coast to Virginia.

Habitat: Commonly found in rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and cypress strands.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Red–bellied Water Snake is active mainly during the daytime. During the hot summer months it is active in the early morning, late afternoon, and at night.

It feeds on fishes and frogs. It is live-bearing. Usually 11-30 young from 9-11.5 inches (22.8-29.2 cm) in length are deposited during the summer.

Comparison with other species: The Mississippi Green Water Snake (Nerodia cyclopion) and Florida Green Water Snake (Nerodia floridana) have scales between the eye and the scales on the upper lip. Harmless Water Snake are often confused with the venomous Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). However, there is no excuse for killing Water Snakes out of confusion since Cottonmouths can easily be distinguished from Water Snakes. The Cottonmouth has 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, while Water Snakes do not.