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Are There Water Snakes in Arizona?

Arizona is no stranger to snakes, and is home to over 50 species of snakes. The two most commonly seen snakes in Arizona are the Gopher snake and the Western Diamondback, though neither of these species are considered water snakes, even if you may see them near bodies of water. Despite having a wide array of snake species throughout the state, Arizona does not have any native water snakes.

Are There Water Snakes In Arizona?

Even though there are no native water snakes in Arizona, that doesn’t mean there are no true water snakes in the state. In fact, there is one species that has made its way to the state. The only water snake found in Arizona is the Banded Water Snake, and it’s unfortunately invasive.

Banded Water Snake

Banded water snake resting
Banded water snake resting

Scientific Name: Nerodia fasciata

The banded water snake, also known as the Southern banded water snake, is an invasive species that can be found in Arizona. While this species isn’t harmful to humans, it does pose a risk to local animal species, and can even alter the ecosystem.

This water snake is native to the Southeast and Midwest portions of the United States. However, this species has been slowly making its way to other states not previously seen.

In May 2016, banded water snakes were found in the basin of the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona. While it has not become widely spread throughout the state, the banded water snake has begun to establish a breeding population in the southern portion of Arizona.

Description

The banded water snake measures, on average, 24 to 48 inches long and has a heavy body. It’s body coloration can vary and ranges from reddish brown to light brown or even black. Their crossbands are darker in color, which makes the pattern stand out from their main body color.

Habitat

Banded water snake on log
Banded water snake on log | image by amdurso via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

This species of water snake is found in just about any freshwater habitat, including swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and wetlands. These snakes can be found in the water or near it, and are active throughout the day and night.

Diet

They are active during both the day and the night, and they consume a wide array of frogs, fish, and even small birds. Banded water snakes are not opposed to grabbing whatever small mammal makes its way into or near its home. However, the bulk of this snake’s diet is semi-aquatic or aquatic animals that share the same space as they do.

Lifespan

Banded water snakes are usually solitary creatures, except during their mating season. The banded water snake has a lifespan of about 8 years in the wild and 3 years in captivity. They breed in the spring and have a gestation period of about 79 days.

This species of snake does not lay eggs and instead gives birth to live babies. The female of the species will birth between 5 to 20 live young at a time. In most cases, the banded water snake only gives birth once a year.

Are Banded Water Snakes Aggressive?

The banded water snake is not an overly aggressive creature, and it won’t just attack for no reason. If you try to pick up the snake, touch it, or just annoy it, you risk the chance of getting bit.

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When the banded water snake feels threatened, it will flatten its body to appear bigger. They will also release an unpleasant odor from their anal glands and even bite repeatedly. This species of water snake will even slash at their attack sideways when they bite to tear the attacker’s flesh.

Do Banded Water Snakes Do Well As Pets?

While there are several different types of snakes that can successfully be kept as a pet, the banded water snake is not one of them. This species of snake does not do well in a cage and actually prefers a habitat that has muddled waters. Additionally, banded water snakes are not overly friendly creatures and can be easily startled or scared, which can result in a painful bite.

Aside from the above, it is also federally illegal to keep a wild-caught animal as a pet. Meaning you really shouldn’t be considering keeping a water snake as a pet anyway.

What Should I Do If I Spot a Banded Water Snake in Arizona?

Since banded water snakes are listed as an invasive species in Arizona, it may be tempting to dispose of them if you come across one. However, you should never kill or try to capture the banded water snake. Instead, reach out to the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and report your findings.

Make sure to have the exact area, date, and time when you saw the banded water snake. If possible, consider snapping a few pictures of the snake as well, if you can get close enough without putting yourself or the snake in danger. These pictures can help the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office identify the exact species you saw much easier than without photos.