Banded Water Snake
Scientific name: Nerodia fasciata fasciata (LINNAEUS 1766)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Coluber fasciatus – LINNAEUS 1766
- Tropidonotus fasciatus – HOLBROOK 1842
- Nerodia fasciata – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
- Tropidonotus pogonias – DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854 (fide WALLACH)
- Natrix fasciata fasciata – COPE 1888
- Natrix sipedon fasciata – CONANT 1958
- Nerodia fasciata – CONANT 1963
- Nerodia fasciata fasciata – CONANT & COLLINS 1991
Description: Adults average from 24-42 inches (61-106.7 cm). The record is 60 inches (152.4 cm). Stout bodied snake with black, brown, or red crossbands (often bordered with black) across back. Crossbands may be obscured as snake darkens with age. Background color may be gray, yellow, tan, or reddish. Belly is light with squarish spots. Scales are keeled and there are 21-25 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. A dark stripe extends from the eye to the angle of the jaw. Juveniles have very clear crossbands (usually black) on pale background.
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, the Banded Water Snake is found in the panhandle. Its range extends northeast up the coastal plain to North Carolina and west to southwestern Alabama.
Habitat: The Banded Water Snake can be found in nearly all freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and marshes.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous) When threatened, the Banded Water Snake will readily bite and exude a foul smelling musk. Active mainly at night, but may be found during the day sunning on banks or vegetation hanging over the water. Feeds on fishes, frogs, salamanders, crayfish, and tadpoles. It bears live young. Mating occurs in spring and the 7.5-9.5 inch (19-24 cm) young are born in summer.
Comparison with other species: The Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota) has squarish dorsal blotches along its entire body. The Midland Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon pleuralis) has fewer than 30 darker brown crossbands near the neck, which break up into alternating blotches further down the body, and the belly is yellowish marked with two rows of half moons. Since both are found around waterbodies, the harmless Banded Water Snake is often confused with the venomous Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). Cottonmouths can easily be distinguished from Water Snakes. The Cottonmouth has a triangular shaped head and a 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 Water Snakes do not.