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Are There Water Snakes in New Hampshire? 

New Hampshire is full of natural beauty. The forests throughout the state create a kaleidoscope of color when the leaves fall in the autumn. Wildlife species, such as snakes, make their home in rocky crevasses and leaf litter. There are 11 species of snake native to New Hampshire, but just one is a true water snakes. Continue reading this article to learn more about the only water snake and other snakes in the state.

Water Snakes in New Hampshire

For the purposes of this article, water snakes refer only to the true water snakes, which are members of the genus Nerodia. They spend most of their life in and around a water source. Water snakes live close to bodies of water and hunt for prey in and around aquatic environments.

The one species of water snake native to New Hampshire is the Common Water Snake. This snake is also known as the Northern Water Snake, but they are the same species. Its favorite habitats are the edges of ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. 

Common Water Snake

Northern water snake basking
Northern water snake basking | image by via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Length: 30” to 48”
  • Venomous: No

Common Water Snakes vary in color between dark gray, olive green, and black. The scales on their bellies are white or yellow. Because of the blotches and cross-bands on their backs, they are occasionally mistaken for venomous snakes like copperheads and water moccasins.

Unlike other species of snakes, Common Water Snakes are active during the day and at night. While its sense of sight is not very good compared to humans, it makes up for this with lightning-fast reflexes, a good sense of smell, and the ability to sense the smallest of vibrations.

Look for Common Water Snakes near a stream, river, or pond. They prefer to live in shallow water or along the shoreline. They live in the southern half of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s cold New England winters are not hospitable to this snake. It stays alive during the winter months by brumating, a form of hibernation. It either digs or finds an acceptable burrow and spends its time in a torpor-like state. While brumating, the snake only awakens to drink water.

Other Types of Snakes in New Hampshire

The Common Water Snake’s coloration and markings often lead people to confuse it with other types of snakes. These nonvenomous snakes are usually mistaken for water moccasins or copperheads, which are venomous. The good news is that neither snake is native to New Hampshire.

1. Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Crotalus horridus
  • Length: 36” to 60”
  • Venomous: Yes

The Timber Rattlesnake is New Hampshire’s only venomous snake. It is a shy, dark-scaled snake that lives in the forests and mountains of the state. When approached, it waves its rattle.

These snakes used to live throughout the state – from the border with Massachusetts north to the foothills of the White Mountains. Unfortunately, human development and intentional removal has decreased their range dramatically. Timber Rattlesnakes are cold-blooded and prefer on the southern slopes of rocky outcroppings.

2. Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern hognose snake playing dead
Eastern hognose snake playing dead
  • Scientific name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Length: 20” to 35”
  • Venomous: No
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The Eastern Hognose Snake has an upturned nose and wide mouth. Its body is either dark gray-black or red-brown with blotches. They can sometimes be confused with the Garter snake and New Hampshire’s only venomous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake.

Eastern Hognose Snakes’ preferred habitat is open woodlands and hills with access to water. They prey primarily on toads, so they are usually found near water sources. Look for them in southern New Hampshire.

3. Common Garter Snake

Common garter snake
Common garter snake | image by Greg Schechter via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis
  • Length: 18” to 26”
  • Venomous: No

The Common Garter Snake is darkly colored with three bright yellow stripes that run down the length of its back. Sometimes these stripes are greenish or grayish. Regardless of striping, their bellies are light yellow. Sometimes they are mistaken for Eastern Ribbon Snakes.

Common Garter Snakes eat various small vertebrates and invertebrates, including worms, small lizards, mice, and voles. Find them throughout the entire state of New Hampshire. They’ll shelter in hollow logs and debris piles.

4. Northern Black Racer

Northern black racer
Northern black racer | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Coluber constrictor
  • Length: 36” to 60”
  • Venomous: No

The Northern Black Racer is one of the larger snakes native to New Jersey. Thanks to its all-black scales, it’s easy to spot. Populations are at risk due to human development. Sometimes they are mistaken for the Common Water Snake.

Northern Black Racers have extensive territories. They prefer to live in dry places with good access to sunlight, open fields, and rocky outcroppings. They eat rodents, amphibians, small mammals, and even other snakes. You’ll only see them in the southeastern parts of New Hampshire.

5. Smooth Green Snake

Smooth green snake
Smooth green snake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Liochlorophis vernalis
  • Length: 10” to 20”
  • Venomous: No

The Smooth Green Snakes are extremely easy to identify. They have a bright green body and light yellow belly. These small, bright green snakes live in open woodlands and shady forests throughout the state.

Insects make up the majority of their diet. They hunt by lying in wait for an insect or spider to pass by. Some of their favorite invertebrates to eat include slugs, worms, and caterpillars. Because it is so small, a Smooth Green Snake is rarely aggressive if approached by humans. It usually tries to flee from threats.

6. Brown Snake

Dekay’s brown snake
Dekay’s brown snake | image by Joseph Gage via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Storeria dekayi
  • Length: 10” to 14”
  • Venomous: No

Brown Snakes have scales of multiple shades of brown. Their base color is a light taupe. Two rows of dark spots extend from the snake’s head to its tail.

It’s commonly mistaken for a Garter Snake, but the difference is clear upon measuring the size. Brown Snakes average only one foot long.

This snake has adapted well to human infrastructure in its environment. It lives in both natural areas, like open woodlands and swamps, as well as parks and empty lots.

New Hampshire has cold winters, so the Brown Snake hibernates in an underground burrow. To conserve heat, many snakes hibernate together. Look for them in the southern part of the state.