The Buckeye state, Ohio is home to a fair number of snake species. With species and several subspecies, different sources list different final counts of snakes found in Ohio. However most report that there are approximately 25-30 species of snakes found in Ohio. Of these snakes, seven of them prefer aquatic habitats. In this article, we will cover some of the water snakes found in Ohio.
It’s no surprise that Ohio is home to a handful of water snakes, Ohio does border one of the great lakes after all. Read on to find out more about the aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes found in Ohio and parts of the state where they can be found.
7 Types of water snakes found in Ohio
Below are 7 water snakes in Ohio that are either fully aquatic or semi-aquatic. The list is includes the Queensnake, Common Water snake, Lake Erie Water snake, Copper-bellied Water snake, Eastern Foxsnake, Common Ribbonsnake and Kirtland’s snake.
Scientific name: Regina septemvittata
Length: 14-23 in.
The Queensnake, a cray-fish specialist can be found in moving bodies of water like streams, rivers, or creeks. Because their main diet includes mostly crayfish, they select for habitats with ample populations of crayfish to hunt.
Queensnakes are found scattered throughout Ohio but seem to cluster in central-middle Ohio. They can be difficult to find, but your best bet to find them is to flip rocks, logs and stones along the edges of creeks and streams.
2. Common Water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon sipedon
Length: 24-42 in.
As the common name would suggest, Common Water snakes are common and are distributed throughout the majority of Ohio. In fact, you can count on them to be in most water bodies throughout the state.
The Common Water snake shares similar coloration and pattern with venomous Cottonmouths, however Cottonmouths are not actually found in Ohio. While Common Water snakes are not venomous, they are known to have a pretty nasty bite. They are also known as Northern Water Snakes, Banded Water Snakes, or Northern Banded Water Snakes.
3. Lake Erie Water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon insularum
Length: 24-42 in.
If you guessed that the Lake Erie Water snake was native to areas bordering Lake Erie, then you are right! These snakes are related to the Common Water snake but are unfortunately less common. In fact, this subspecies is actually endangered in Ohio.
The Lake Erie Water snake feeds primarily on small fish, including the Round Goby which is actually an invasive species that has become a nuisance in Lake Erie.
4. Copper-bellied Water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta
Length: 36-48 in.
The Copper-bellied Water snake is related to both the Common and Lake Erie Water snake, however it is in its own genus. Copper-bellied Water snakes are mostly black but have a copper-colored underside, hence the name.
Unfortunately, these snakes are endangered. They are restricted to the very Northwest corner of Ohio and only occur in Williams County. While they are Water snakes, they also spend a fair amount of time on land. The expansion of agricultural land has led to the decline in populations in the state.
5. Eastern Foxsnake
Scientific name: Pantherophis gloydi
Length: 48-60 in
The Eastern Foxsnake is more semi-aquatic than strictly aquatic. While they spend a considerable amount of time on land, they are excellent swimmers and very agile in the water.
They tend to inhabit wet habitats like marshes but are also common along the shores and islands of Lake Erie. They are only found in a handful of counties in the Northern tip of the state.
6. Common Ribbonsnake
Scientific name: Thamnophis sauritus
Length: 18-24 in.
The Common Ribbonsnake is another semi-aquatic snake found in Ohio. They can be found mostly in the Northeast, Northwest and Southeast corners of the state. Their diet is made up of almost entirely aquatic animals like crayfish, frogs, small fish and salamanders.
While they typically can be found not far from water sources, they also inhabit wet prairies or meadows and sometimes in damp forested areas. Common Ribbonsnakes are often mis-identified as Garter snakes, another non-venomous snake in Ohio.
7. Kirtland’s Snake
Scientific name: Clonophis kirtlandii
Length: 12-15 in.
The seldomly seen Kirtland’s snake is semi-aquatic and semi-fossorial meaning that it spends time in the water and underground. Because it tends to spend time underground, they can be tricky to find.
Kirtland’s snakes are scattered throughout the Western half of Ohio where they can be found in wet meadows and wet fields. They are a threatened species with populations declining.
Recap of Ohio’s water snakes
Most people don’t think of Northern states like Ohio supporting a biodiverse group of reptiles, but the Buckeye state is home to a fair few of snakes. Only three snakes in Ohio are venomous, and none of these venomous snakes are considered water snakes.
All snakes are able to swim if need be, so if you do encounter a snake swimming that is not on this list, the snake could just be trying to make a break for it rather than swimming out of choice. In fact, snakes can be found just about anywhere- in the water, underground, in the trees, and some snakes even glide through the air!