common watersnake

(Nerodia sipedon)

Conservation Status
common watersnake
Photo by Jeff LeClere
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

S4 - Apparently Secure


not listed


The background color is reddish-brown to tan or gray, but it may appear all brown, especially when dry. There are dark brown to black, squarish blotches on the back and similar spots on the sides. The back spots sometimes alternate with the side spots, sometimes join with them to form bands. The belly is cream colored and is usually irregularly covered with reddish, half-moon shaped marks.




24 to 55


Similar Species


Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) tail ends in a small, dark-colored rattle.

Northern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) is similar but have bands instead of blotches on the back. Their range does not extend to the upper Midwest.


Ponds, lakes, marshes, streams, and river backwaters.




It can often be seen basking on a tree branch or shrub on the shore or bank of a river or stream.

t is not poisonous to humans but it can deliver a painful bite if cornered.




Up to 9.6 years


Life Cycle






Fish, mammals, frogs, toads, salamanders, crayfish, worms, young snakes, young turtles, and insects.


Distribution Map



4, 14, 24, 29, 30, 74, 76, 78.





  Class Reptilia (reptiles)  
  Superorder Lepidosauria  
  Order Squamata (snakes and lizards)  
  Suborder Serpentes (snakes)  
  Infraorder Alethinophidia  
  Superfamily Colubroidea  


Colubridae (colubrid snakes)  




Nerodia (watersnakes)  

Subordinate Taxa


Carolina watersnake (Nerodia sipedon williamengelsi)

Lake Erie watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum)

midland watersnake (Nerodia sipedon pleuralis)

northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)




Natrix sipedon

Coluber sipedon


Common Names


common watersnake

northern watersnake








Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this reptile.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Jeff LeClere

    common watersnake      

Jason Durnen

    common watersnake      








Visitor Videos

Share your video of this reptile.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos
  Northern watersnake - Nerodia sipedon sipedon - Hamilton County, Ohio, USA - May 27, 2013
William Hull

Published on May 29, 2013

Northern watersnake eating what appears to be a Stonecat Madtom.

  Venom H.L. Non Venomous, Northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)

Published on Jul 28, 2013

  Venom H.L. Non Venomous, Northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) In HD

Published on Aug 24, 2013

  Northern watersnake

Uploaded on Aug 23, 2009

The Northern watersnake is certainly one of the most enigmatic ambush predators to be found. They live in an aquatic world of ponds, bogs, marshes and also brooks if the water is slow moving. They wait in an ambush position within these bodies of water searching for their prey which consists of a wide variety of animals including, frogs, salamanders, juvenile turtles and amazingly they even catch fish! They can grow to be a large bulky snake with some reaching well over 50 inches in length and being easily as thick as an adults arm! When threatened, they much prefer to bolt into the cover of the water but if cornered, to defend themselves they will lash out viciously biting and wriggling there strong bodies. When they are picked up they will secret a fowl smelling pungent odor and urinate all in an attempt to return to the safety of the water they call home. They are a beautiful snake and when young, have amazing markings and colorations. As they get older, they get darker in color and eventually nearly all black. I grew up catching and releasing these snakes as a child and have always thought of them fondly. Like all wild species, they require habitat to remain healthy and allow future generations to enjoy the wonder of the Northern watersnake! I'm Mark Fraser see me at, and thank you for helping to protect the natural world!

Did you know?

Northern watersnakes can grow as long as 53 inches!

They often catch fish! Awesome!

As reptiles, they must bask in sunlight to regulate their body temperature.

They are sometimes eaten by predators such as: raccoons, fox and birds of prey, which is why they have learned to thrash wildly to escape when held.

  60-Second Snakes: The Northern watersnake

Published on Jul 24, 2015

The Michigan DNR’s 60-Second Snakes video series talks about identification tips and information about Michigan’s snake species. This episode features the northern watersnake. Learn more about the northern watersnake: A special thanks to Nature Discovery ( for the opportunity to film their live educational snake specimens.




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this reptile.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Jason Durnen

Location: Winona

common watersnake  
  Jonathan H.

Location: Eagle Creek in Scott County

Adult seen swimming along the bottom of stream until disappearing somewhere in the stream bank.

  Jeff LeClere

Location: Houston County

northern watersnake

common watersnake







Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.