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Are There Water Snakes in West Virginia?

If you enjoy nature, West Virginia is the place to be. Because the state’s natural resources are diverse, it has become home to over 57 species of amphibians and reptiles. And if you’re curious about the number of water snakes in West Virginia, this article is for you.

We’ll look at West Virginia’s water snakes, including their habitat, and explain how to identify them in the wild, so you know what you’re looking at.

Are there water snakes in West Virginia?

The common water snake is the only true water snake from the genus Nerodia found in West Virginia. It’s a non-venomous species found throughout the state, but it prefers slow-moving, shallow bodies of water such as ponds and creeks. The common water snake has several subspecies found throughout the region, the most common being the northern water snake. This is the subspecies of common water snake that inhabits West Virginia.

Let’s learn a bit more about this snake.

Common watersnake

Common watersnake
Common watersnake | image by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Length: 24 to 40 inches
  • Venomous: No

As mentioned, the only type of true water snake found in West Virginia is the common watersnake (Nerodia sipedon). These snakes are usually dark brown or grayish, with darker blotches around their bodies.

This species prefers to live near bodies of water, such as ponds, rivers, streams, and lakes. They’re a little aggressive and will defend their territory from anyone who comes near them or who they perceive to be a threat.

These snakes primarily feed on insects, fish, frogs, and other small animals found in their environment. They’re not very active during the winter because it’s too cold for them to hunt for food successfully; thus, they spend most of this time in winter dens until spring, when temperatures warm up enough for them to return to their natural environment.

Semi-aquatic snakes found in West Virginia

You may find only one true water snake in West Virginia, but it isn’t the only snake that lives near or on water found in the state. These are some of the semi-aquatic snakes you can find in West Virginia.

1. Eastern garter snake

Melanisitic eastern garter snake
Melanisitic eastern garter snake | image by Andrew Cannizzaro via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
  • Length: 18-26 inches
  • Venomous: No

The Eastern Garter snake is a medium-sized, non-venomous snake found in the eastern United States, including West Virginia. They’re extremely common in the state and are distinguished by their brownish or greenish coloration, with yellow stripes running the length of their bodies.

These snakes can even be found at altitudes of up to 3,500 feet. In the wild, they can grow to be 26 inches long and live for four years.

These animals prefer shrublands, forests, and wetlands, where they feed on worms, frogs, slugs, and small fish. Eastern garter snakes can even swim at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.

2. Queensnake

Queensnake
Queensnake | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Regina septemvittata
  • Length: 15 to 25 inches
  • Venomous: No

Queen snakes are native to North America, including West Virginia. They can be found throughout the state in a variety of habitats, but these snakes are most common in small, rocky creeks and rivers. These aquatic animals feed primarily on crayfish and other small aquatic animals found in their habitats.

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They’re small and slender, with most only reaching a length of 24 inches on average. Queen snakes have brown or grayish-brown bodies with yellow stripes on the sides.

These snakes aren’t venomous, nor are they aggressive, and they prefer to flee from danger. These aquatic snakes are known to be passive hunters, only hiding and waiting for crayfish under rocks.

3. Common ribbonsnake

Eastern ribbon snake
Eastern ribbon snake | image by John J. Mosesso via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Thamnophis sauritus
  • Length: 18 to 34 inches
  • Venomous: No

Common Ribbon snakes are semi-arboreal and semi-aquatic snake species found in West Virginia, though they’re not as common as garter snakes. These species can be found in Mason, Monroe, Greenbrier, Randolph, Hardy, and Preston counties in West Virginia. They’re known to live near water sources, with the majority found in Randolph County’s Tygart Valley River, and primarily feed on amphibians and worms.

These snakes are most active during the day, but they’ll also be active at night during the breeding season of most frogs. Ribbon snakes resemble garter snakes in appearance, with both having dark-colored bodies with three yellow stripes.

4. Northern copperhead

Northern copperhead
A northern copperhead | image by Cataloging Nature via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
  • Length: 24 to 37 inches
  • Venomous: Yes

Northern copperheads are among the venomous pit-viper snakes found in the eastern United States, with the exception of Florida. These copperheads live in the state’s rocky foothills and mountainous areas, where they hunt small mammals like mice and rats.

They’re also known to prey on aquatic animals and are among the snakes seen swimming in West Virginia. These venomous snakes are generally shy creatures that avoid human contact, but if threatened or cornered, they’ll bite. Their bite is painful, but the venom these species inject is rarely fatal.

FAQs

Are there venomous water snakes in West Virginia?

There are only two venomous snakes in West Virginia: the Northern copperhead and the Timber rattlesnake. Timber rattlesnakes aren’t water snakes. It mostly lives on land and can be found in the state’s mountainous and rocky areas.

The Northern copperhead, on the other hand, is one of two venomous snakes that can be seen swimming in ponds and streams. Neither are considered to be true water snakes.

How many snake species are there in West Virginia?

The state of West Virginia has 24 species of snakes, but only one (the common water snake) is a true water snake. Two are venomous: the copperhead and timber rattlesnake.