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Are There Water Snakes in Connecticut?

Located in Southern New England, Connecticut is filled with woodlands and is alongside the Long Island Sound, an estuary that leads into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s home to a diverse collection of wildlife, including 14 species of snake! However, only one of those reptiles, the Northern Water snake, is a true water snake.

Water snakes are North American snakes that mostly live in aquatic environments. They’re not the only snakes that can swim, but you’re more likely to see them in the water than on land. Keep reading to learn more about the Northern water snake along with other snake species found in Connecticut.

The Northern Water snake: The Only True Water Snake In Connecticut

Northern water snake on log
Northern water snake on log | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon sipedon
  • Length: 24″ to 55″
  • Venomous: No

The Northern water snake is one of several subspecies of the common water snake. Other subspecies include the midland water snake and the Carolina water snake.

The Northern water snake is the only true water snake in Connecticut and can be found across the state, where it mostly lives near ponds, marshes, lakes, and streams. It can also thrive in human-created water bodies, such as reservoirs and dams.

Since the appearance of these snakes can vary, they’re often mixed up with other snake species found in the Constitution State. Their bodies are usually varying shades of brown, gray, or tan, but juvenile snakes may have brighter-colored scales. These snakes usually have pale bellies and band-like markings across their bodies.

Like all snakes, the Northern water snake is ectothermic, so it has no way of internally regulating its own body temperature. Even though these snakes feed during all hours of the day, cooler temperatures mean they’re rarely active at night.

During the morning and afternoon, the snakes usually leave the water to bask on nearby rocks and logs. They may hide themselves in stumps or brush along the water when they sleep.

As you might expect from a water snake, this creature is perfectly suited to aquatic habitats. When it swims, it usually keeps its body submerged while leaving its head above the water so that it can search for prey.

It relies on its sight, sense of smell, and motion in the water to find animals to feed on.  It has a varied diet that includes fish, crayfish, toads, and frogs.

Since Connecticut has cold winters, Northern water snakes typically brumate from late October to early April. Brumating is similar to hibernation, but snakes don’t always sleep while they’re dormant.

They usually mate in May, shortly after they finish brumating for the winter. New snakes are born between August and October.

Other Types of Snakes In Connecticut

People mistake the Northern water snake for several other snake species, including snakes native to Connecticut and species that are not found in the state. It’s often mixed up with the water moccasin, a venomous reptile that is not found in any part of New England. Other types of snakes that can be found in Connecticut include:

1. Northern Copperhead

Northern copperhead
Northern copperhead | image by Cataloging Nature via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
  • Length: 24″ to 47″
  • Venomous: Yes
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This is one of only two venomous snakes that can be found in Connecticut, the other being the endangered timber rattlesnake. Its scales are varying shades of brown, and it has hourglass-like markings along its back.

In Connecticut, this snake is usually found near the Connecticut River, where it usually lives on rocky hillsides or ridges. It’s rarely seen in the northern part of the state.

2. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Eastern hognose snake
Eastern hog-nosed snake | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Heterodon platyrhinos
  • Length: 21″ to 32″
  • Venomous: No

These stout snakes get their names from their distinctive snouts, which are slightly upturned. They use those snouts to dig for food, including its preferred food source, toads.

While it can be found all over Connecticut, populations tend to be concentrated inland, and snakes are rarely spotted near the coast. Like Northern water snakes, these snakes are usually brown with darker-colored markings, which causes people to mix up the two species.

3. Eastern Milk Snake

Eastern milk snake resting
Eastern milk snake resting | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
  • Length: 24″ to 36″
  • Venomous: No

This is one of Connecticut’s most common snake species and is frequently seen in areas populated by humans. However, they’re rarely seen in New London County.

You can find them in many types of habitats, including bogs, meadows, and in forests. Most snakes are gray or brown, with tan or reddish-brown markings.

4. Eastern Rat snake

Eastern rat snake
Eastern rat snake | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Pantherophis alleghaniensis
  • Length: 46″ to 68″
  • Venomous: No

The Eastern rat snake is the longest and largest snake species found in Connecticut. Although it can be found in all parts of the state, populations are higher in the south.

They are active hunters and may even enter buildings in search of birds, small rodents, and other types of prey. The Eastern rat snake prefers woodland habitats and is commonly spotted in the branches of trees.