Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)


Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)

Photo of Adult Common Watersnake courtesy of  Scott A. Smith

Photo of Adult Common Watersnake courtesy of Scott A. Smith ​


Former Name:
Northern Watersnake​

Size:
24 - 42 inches. Record - 55⅛ inches.

Appearance:
  • A highly variable species, but typically heavy-bodied with a large rounded head.
  • Often mistaken for “water moccasins” which do not occur in Maryland.
  • They have a back pattern of black to reddish-brown blotches which may form crossbands.
  • Older individuals may appear one dark color, but close examination should reveal some blotches.
  • Reddish-brown to orange-brown “half-moons” on a creamy yellow to pink belly.
  • Keeled scales.
  • Young are strongly patterned black on a pale gray or light brown background.

Close-up Photo of Common Watersnake - courtesy of  John White
Close-up Photo of Common Watersnake
courtesy of John White


Habitats:

Can be found in or near every type of wetland habitat, from rivers to lakes, and bogs to ponds. Even lives in brackish marshes.


How to Find:

Walk along wetland edges, particularly where there is slow-moving water. Look for basking individuals near escape cover. Warning: water snakes have a reputation for being ill humored. They will readily bite and “musk” upon handling. Non-venomous.

Photo of Common Watersnake Habitat - courtesy of Tony Procheska
Photo of Common Watersnake Habitat
courtesy of Tony Procheska


Distribution in Maryland:

This snake is found commonly throughout Maryland.​

Common Watersnake - Distribution in Maryland