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Are There Water Snakes in Maine?

A true water snake is a species of snake that is adapted to living in aquatic environments, such as rivers, lakes, and swamps. A true water snake is a member of the Nerodia family. True water snakes have characteristics that make them stand out. For example, true water snakes have flattened heads, which help them swim more efficiently in the water. They also have keeled scales, which appear more rough. This provides better grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

Additionally, true water snakes are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for extended periods, which enables them to hunt for prey underwater. Overall, a true water snake is a fascinating creature that has evolved specific adaptations to thrive in aquatic environments. Many people may wonder what kind of water snakes are in Maine. This article will answer the question of whether or not there are true water snakes in Maine.

Are There Water snakes in Maine?

Yes, but Maine is home to one type of water snake: the Northern water snake. Below you will find facts about this aquatic snake that lives in the state of Maine. 

Northern water snake

Northern water snake basking
Northern water snake basking | image by via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

The Northern water snake is the only true water snake found in the state of Maine. It is most common in the southern and central parts of the state. They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, such as rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes, where they spend much of their time hunting for prey.

How Big Do Northern Water snakes Get?

Northern water snakes can vary in size depending on factors such as their age, sex, and habitat. Adult Northern water snakes typically grow from 24 to 42 long, with males being slightly larger than females. Some individuals have been known to grow up to 55 inches in length.

Northern water snakes are also known for their relatively thick bodies, which can make them appear larger than other types of snakes of similar length. Juvenile Northern water snakes are much smaller than adults and are usually only between 8 to 16 inches long.

What Do Northern Water snakes Eat?

Northern water snake on a log
Northern water snake on a log

Northern water snakes in Maine primarily feed on aquatic prey, such as fish, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish. They are opportunistic predators and will eat whatever they can catch and swallow, but their diet mainly consists of fish.

Northern water snakes are strong swimmers and can easily chase fish and other prey in the water. They may also ambush prey that comes close to the water’s edge or hunt for prey in shallow water. Juvenile Northern water snakes tend to feed on smaller prey items such as insects, tadpoles, and small fish until they grow larger and can take on larger prey.

Do Northern Water snakes Hibernate?

Yes, Northern water snakes in Maine do hibernate during the winter months. Cold-blooded reptiles are unable to regulate their body temperature internally and must rely on external heat sources to warm up their bodies.

In Maine, the winters can be too cold for Northern water snakes to remain active, so they hibernate in underground burrows, crevices, or other sheltered areas to survive the winter. They may begin to hibernate as early as September or October and remain in their hibernation sites until temperatures warm up in the spring.

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During hibernation, their metabolism slows down, and they enter a state of reduced activity to conserve energy until the weather becomes more favorable for them to become active again.

Are Northern Water snakes Venomous?

Northern water snake swimming
Northern water snake swimming

No, Northern water snakes in Maine are not venomous. In fact, none of the true water snakes are venomous. Northern water snakes are a non-venomous species of snake and pose no significant danger to humans.

While they do have sharp teeth, they use them to catch and hold onto prey rather than to inject venom. However, Northern water snakes can be aggressive and may defend themselves if threatened or cornered, so it is best to observe them from a safe distance and avoid handling them. If you encounter a Northern water snake in the wild, it is best to give it plenty of space and allow it to move away on its own.

Are Water snakes Protected in Maine?

Yes, Northern water snakes are protected in Maine. They are considered a species of special concern by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), which means that they are not endangered or threatened, but their populations are closely monitored and managed to prevent decline.

Northern water snakes face various threats in Maine, including habitat loss and degradation, road mortality, and human persecution, such as killing or capturing them out of fear or misunderstanding.

In Maine, it is illegal to kill, capture, or harass Northern water snakes without a permit from the MDIFW. Additionally, the destruction or alteration of their habitats, such as wetlands and shorelines, is regulated by state and federal laws. These protections are in place to ensure the long-term survival of Northern water snakes and their important ecological roles in aquatic ecosystems.

What Should You Do if You Encounter a Northern Water snake in the Wild?

While Northern water snakes are non-venomous and not dangerous to humans, keeping a respectful distance if you see one in the wild is important.

Do not approach the snake because it may become defensive and bite if it feels threatened. If you want to observe the snake, it is recommended to stay at least six feet away. Do not harass or disturb the snake.

As stated above, it is illegal to catch or hurt a Northern water snake in Maine. Finally, consider reporting your findings to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This information can help biologists track the population and conserve this fascinating creature.