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5 Species of Water Snakes in Alabama (Pictures)

Water snakes are commonly found anywhere there is a body of freshwater in Alabama. These snakes play an essential role in maintaining the ecological balance of the aquatic ecosystem by controlling the populations of fish, frogs, and other prey species.

The snake species are well-adapted to life in the water and can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, such as rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, and swamps. Despite their importance to the ecosystem, many people often misunderstand and fear water snakes, leading to conflicts and negative attitudes toward these fascinating reptiles.

Photo collage water snakes in Alabama

5 Water Snakes in Alabama

There are several species of water snakes in Alabama including the Diamondback Water Snake, Northern Water Snake, Yellowbelly Water Snake, Brown Water Snake, and Gulf Saltmarsh Snake.

1. Diamondback Water Snake

Diamondback Water Snake
Diamondback Water Snake | k.draper | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia rhombifer

The Diamondback Water Snake is a common species of water snake that can be found in Alabama. These snakes are known for their distinctive diamond-shaped pattern along their back, which is usually dark brown or black against a lighter brown or gray background. This species ranges in length from 3 to 5 feet.

Diamondback water snakes are non-venomous and feed primarily on fish, frogs, and other aquatic prey. They are highly aquatic and are often seen swimming or basking along the shores of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. They are also strong swimmers and can hold their breath for several minutes while diving for food.

In Alabama, Diamondback water snakes are generally found in the southern and central parts of the state and are common in many of the state’s waterways. Despite their abundance, Diamondback water snakes are still sometimes mistaken for venomous species but are completely harmless to humans.

2. Northern Water Snake

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

The Northern water snake is a non-venomous species of water snake found in Alabama. These snakes are usually light to dark brown in color and have distinctive markings, such as bold bands or blotches along their bodies. They feed primarily on fish and frogs but will also consume other small aquatic prey if available.

Northern water snakes are often found near water, such as rivers, lakes, and marshes. They are strong swimmers and are well-adapted to life in the water, where they play an important role in controlling the populations of their prey. In Alabama, Northern water snakes are found in the northern and central parts of the state.

3. Yellowbelly Water Snake

Yellowbelly water snake resting
Yellowbelly water snake resting | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster

The Yellowbelly water snake is a non-venomous species of water snake that can be found in southern and central parts of Alabama. They are one of five subspecies of plain-belly water snakes. These snakes are named for their distinctive yellow or orange belly, which serves as a warning to potential predators of their unpalatability.

Yellowbelly Water Snakes grow between 30 and 40 inches in length. These snakes are primarily aquatic and feed on a variety of prey, including fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They are strong swimmers and are often found near water, such as rivers, lakes, and swamps.

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4. Brown Water Snake

Brown water snake on log
Brown water snake on log | image by Kelly Verdeck via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia taxispilota

The Brown Water Snake is a non-venomous species of water snake that can be found in Alabama. These snakes are usually light to dark brown in color and have distinctive markings, such as bold bands or blotches along their bodies. On average, this species measures between 30 and 55 inches.

They feed primarily on fish and amphibians but will also consume other small aquatic prey if available. Brown water snakes are highly aquatic and are often found near water, such as rivers, lakes, and marshes in the southeastern part of Alabama. They are strong swimmers and are well-adapted to life in the water.

5. Gulf Saltmarsh Snake

Gulf saltmarsh snake
Gulf saltmarsh snake | image by Glenn Bartolotti via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Nerodia clarkii clarkii

The Gulf Saltmarsh Snake is a non-venomous species of snake that can be found in Alabama. These snakes are found in salt marshes and other coastal habitats along the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed primarily on small fish and other aquatic prey.

Gulf Saltmarsh Snakes are slender, brown, or gray in color and have distinctive light-colored stripes along the sides of their bodies. They grow to be an average of 30 inches in length and are well-adapted to life in salt marshes and other coastal habitats.


Semi-aquatic snakes in Alabama

Cottonmouth

Coiled cottonmouth snake
Coiled cottonmouth snake | image by smashtonlee05 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Agkistrodon piscivorus

The Cottonmouth is a venomous snake found in Alabama. Cottonmouths are not water snakes, they are pit vipers, but they are highly aquatic and spend a large portion of their time in the water. These snakes are also known as “water moccasins” and are one of the few venomous snake species in the southeastern United States.

Cottonmouths are usually dark brown or black and have a distinctive white or yellow mouth, which they display as a warning sign when threatened. They feed primarily on fish and amphibians but will also consume small mammals and reptiles if the opportunity arises.

Cottonmouths are highly aquatic and are often found near water, such as rivers, swamps, and marshes. In Alabama, they are commonly found in the southern and central parts of the state, where they play an important role in controlling the populations of their prey. Despite their venomous bite, Cottonmouths are an important part of the ecosystem and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the aquatic food chain.

However, as with all venomous species, it is important to exercise caution when encountering a Cottonmouth and to leave these snakes alone to avoid conflict and danger to both the snake and the person.

Rainbow Snake

rainbow snake
A rainbow Snake | Photo by Charles Baker via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Farancia erytrogramma

Rainbow Snakes are a non-venomous species of snake that can be found in Alabama. These snakes are named for the iridescent, rainbow-like sheen on their scales. These beautiful creatures can grow up to 66 inches in length, which is over five feet!

They are primarily aquatic and feed on a variety of prey, including eels, which are their preferred food source. Rainbow snakes are strong swimmers and are often found near water, such as rivers, lakes, and swamps.

In Alabama, Rainbow snakes are less commonly encountered than some of the other species of aquatic snakes found in the state, but they can still be found in some of the state’s aquatic habitats. This species is very rare and possibly threatened, making them of the highest conservation concern.

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Mud Snake

Mud snake
Mud snake | image by Bree McGhee via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Farancia abacura

The Mud Snake is a large, non-venomous species of aquatic snake found in Alabama. These snakes are named for their preferred habitat of muddy and marshy areas near water. They feed on a variety of prey, including eels, which are their preferred food source.

Mud Snakes have smooth, glossy scales and are dark in color. They have distinctive, bright red or orange markings along the underside of their bodies, which can make them easily recognizable.

Also known as the horn snake or stinging snake, this species does not typically bite but instead pushes a spinelike protuberance on the tip of its tail into the skin, making people think the snake has stinging abilities. Mud snakes are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night and tend to inhabit areas without much human traffic.