Arkansas has a diverse array of wildlife, including a variety of snakes that inhabit its rivers, lakes, and wetlands. This includes a group of snakes called true water snakes. True water snakes are members of the Nerodia family. True water snakes are non-venomous, excellent swimmers, and well-adapted to life in aquatic environments. Arkansas is home to several species of true water snakes, each with its own distinctive coloration, behavior, and habitat preferences. This article will discuss the different species of water snakes you can find in Arkansas.
6 Water Snakes in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to several species of water snakes, including the Northern water snake, diamondback water snake, plain-bellied water snake, Mississippi green water snake, broad-banded water snake, and the yellow-bellied water snake.
1. Northern Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon
The Northern water snakes are one of the most common water snakes in Arkansas. They can be found in streams, ponds, and lakes around the state. This species is brown or gray with dark blotches along its body and a lighter belly.
Northern water snakes are most active during the day and can be seen swimming in the water or basking on logs and trees. Their diet consists of various prey, including fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals. These non-venomous snakes are typically non-aggressive, but they can exhibit aggressive behavior if they feel cornered or threatened.
Northern water snakes grow between 24 and 42 inches in length, and the females are often larger than the males. Female northern water snakes give birth to live young in late summer or early fall. Though this snake is a common sight in Arkansas, they do face threats like habitat loss, pollution, and danger from humans that mistake them for venomous snakes like the cottonmouth, also known as the water moccasin.
2. Diamondback Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia rhombifer
Diamondback water snakes are named for the diamond-shaped markings along their body. These markings are more prominent in younger individuals. Adult diamondback water snakes can reach lengths of up to 5 feet, making them one of the largest non-venomous snakes in Arkansas.
They are primarily found in slow-moving bodies of water, such as swamps, marshes, and rivers. They feed on fish, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates.
Diamondback water snakes can exhibit defensive behavior when threatened. They flatten their body and strike with their jaws open. Despite their intimidating appearance, diamondback water snakes are non-venomous and play an important role in maintaining the balance of aquatic ecosystems.
3. Plain-bellied Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster
As their name suggests, Plain-bellied water snakes have a plain, unmarked belly that is lighter in color than their dark, patterned back. This water snake species can typically be found in slow-moving bodies of water, such as swamps, marshes, and ponds.
They are excellent swimmers and have been known to climb trees and dive to the bottom of the water to catch their prey. Plain-bellied water snakes are relatively small, growing up to 3 feet long. They are non-venomous and pose no threat to humans.
4. Mississippi Green Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia cyclopion
The Mississippi Green water snake, also known as the Green water snake, is typically found in rivers, lakes, and swamps in Arkansas. They hunt for fish, frogs, and other small prey. The Mississippi Green water snake is a relatively large snake, with adults averaging around 3-4 feet in length.
They have a distinctive green coloration on their back and sides, with a yellow or cream-colored belly. While they are generally docile and not a threat to humans, they will defend themselves if threatened or cornered. In Arkansas, the Mississippi Green water snake is considered to be in danger due to factors like habitat loss and is protected under state law.
5. Broad-banded Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia fasciata
The Broad-banded water snake, also known as the Southern water snake, is usually found in or near bodies of water such as streams, ponds, and swamps. The Broad-banded water snake is a relatively large water snake species, reaching between 2 and 4 feet in length when fully grown. There are gray or brownish-red with a pattern of dark brown or black bands.
Like most water snakes, they are active during the day and feed on fish, frogs, and other aquatic prey. While they are generally not aggressive towards humans, they may bite if they feel threatened or cornered.
6. Yellow-bellied Water snake
Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
As their name suggests, the yellow-bellied water snake has a yellow or cream-colored belly with a brown or grayish-brown back and sides. Yellow-bellied water snakes are often found near bodies of water, such as streams, rivers, and ponds, where they hunt for fish, frogs, and other small prey. They are generally active during the day but may also hunt at night.
Yellow-bellied water snakes are not considered to be a threat to humans, but like other snakes, they may bite if they feel threatened or cornered. In Arkansas, the Yellow-bellied water snake is generally widespread throughout the state. However, like other snakes, they can be impacted by habitat loss and other factors.