The banded water snake (Natrix fasciata) is a nonvenomous colubrid found in Eastern North America. It is often mistaken for the Northern Water Snake, but can be distinguished by the presence of three dark stripes down the back.
This small snake is typically 18 to 38 inches long. The maximum reported total length is 72 inches. They are usually brown, olive or brownish-green with dark brown blotches which appear black against their lighter background coloration.
This species ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico and lives in habitats including ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes, creeks, ditches, streams and swamps. They are semi-aquatic and semi-fossorial.
A General Overview
These snakes, found from Florida to Texas and east to Alabama, are robust, arboreal, and common throughout their wide distribution. Females may attain lengths of up to 85 cm (33 in) and males up to 90 cm (35 in).
They are a peaceful, calm-water dweller, living on moist, muddy substrates in open areas and near small streams and lakes. Some species occur in the Everglades and the Mississippi River.
Their diet consists of frogs, fish, amphibians, and other water-dwelling animals. In addition, they have been known to eat birds. The banded water snake is preyed upon by alligators, raptors, hawks, ospreys, and owls.
Although they are often mistaken for the venomous copperhead, the banded water snake is harmless to humans. The Head of this snake has a long, angular head.
This species prefers forested and prairie areas with abundant vegetation and fast-flowing waters. It is listed as a threatened species in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Life History Banded water snakes have about 20 or so clinical bites per year, which typically occur during snakebite incidents, and are known for their tendency to bite if picked up or startled, or if an object is present on its side.
Range Banded water snakes are found from Virginia and South Carolina south to the Florida panhandle and along the Gulf Coast as far north as Louisiana, although it has not been reported in the Lower Mississippi River Basin in the last 100 years.
Behavior The banded water snake is nonvenomous and mostly secretive. It is generally active at dusk and at night.
Like many other species of snakes, the banded water snake feeds on almost anything. Its diet mainly consists of small mammals such as mice, rats, frogs, and salamanders.
The banded water snake is often found near water or on the banks of rivers and creeks and typically stays within an area that ranges from 10 to 15 feet in length. Reproduction The banded water snake reproduces by laying eggs in the water.
The eggs typically hatch during the spring or summer. Physical Characteristics Like most other snakes, the banded water snake has a strong, muscular body with a tapered, cylindrical head that measures approximately 6 to 8 inches in length.
The banded water snake’s color pattern is the same as that of other water snakes.
Generally, this species is known to be oviparous, with females producing a clutch of 10–20 (average 13) eggs which they deposit in a subterranean site or surface water body.
Eggs hatch in about 14 days. Chicks measure from 3.4 to 6.2 in (8 to 17.8 cm) in total length. Behavior The banded water snake feeds on tadpoles, frogs, small fish, and other aquatic vertebrates such as salamanders.
In the wild, this species often creates shallow, shifting, emergent pools (like a mud pot) that can look like a pond, but are really shallow, still waters.
This particular behavior is shared with the fire-bellied toad (Bufo contortrix). While foraging, the banded water snake may also be found in the water.
Banded water snakes are secretive, beautiful, and active. They are often sighted in ponds, lakes, creeks, and rivers where they hunt by ambush. Most snakes of this species are medium to large in size.
With up to 25 inches (63 cm) long adults, it is easily recognizable as a banded water snake. However, smaller snakes are also quite commonly encountered. During the day, the snakes are mostly found hiding under rocks, logs, and algae.
At night they hide in mud or under logs and remain on the lookout for food, both the eggs and young of other species of snakes, and small fish.
It is also a good swimmer and can remain submerged for up to two minutes at a time. When out of the water, the snakes are an excellent candidate for breeding.
Introduced into the West Indies in the 1800s, the banded water snake is now native to the southeastern United States, as well as Bermuda and the West Indies, including Puerto Rico.
Most likely, the banded water snake was introduced to the West Indies after its arrival on the islands from the United States. Natural History and Behaviors The banded water snake is a large, alligator-like snake, reaching 4 to 7 feet in total length.
The skin of a banded water snake is colorless to gray-brown with horizontal black stripes down its body. The color of the snake’s belly is blue-green and the bottom part of its tail is black.
Banded water snakes are very elusive animals and tend to hide in caves or other dark, damp places in order to ambush their prey.
Banded water snakes are harmless to humans and their soft, membranous bodies pose little threat to humans.
But if you’re a pet owner and want to see your animal sporting this cool, interactive accessory you can get a limited edition banded water snake for around $30. For the full story, head to Country Living.
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