Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)
Plain-bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
Photo of Plain-bellied Watersnake courtesy of Dave Wilson
30 - 48 inches. Record - 62 inches.
- A rich, chocolate brown to ebony black back, with strongly keeled scales.
- Diagnostic feature is the deep red to orange-red unmarked or plain belly, which contrasts abruptly with the back coloration.
- The red is usually visible on the throat and along the lower jaw.
- Thick-bodied and “bread loaf” shaped in cross-section.
- Young are boldly patterned black on a pinkish ground color.
Photo of Plain-bellied Watersnake courtesy of John White
Forested riparian areas, particularly Atlantic White-cedar and Baldcypress Swamps, and shrub swamps, from brackish to tidal fresh waters of coastal plain rivers. May travel considerable distances from water during humid periods of mid-summer. All records are from the lower Eastern Shore where it may be locally common, though rarely seen.
How to Find:
Drive (or bike) slowly on roads near swamps in mid-summer looking for animals basking in the road or road-killed individuals. Warning: Will readily inflict a painful bite when handled. Non-venomous. Please report any sightings or road kills to DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service as this species is tracked as a rare Watchlist species.
Photo of Habitat for
courtesy Rebecca Chalmers
Distribution in Maryland:
Found only on the Lower Eastern Shore.