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4 Types of Water Snakes in Virginia (Pictures)

Water snakes are mostly aquatic snakes that can easily swim in and live by different bodies of water. Most water-dwelling snakes are non-venomous and mostly harmless. All except for the cottonmouth, a semi-aquatic snake that we’ve included on this list of water snakes in Virginia.

Virginia has 3,180.13 square miles of water, two natural lakes, many man made lakes, 9 major river systems, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. In Virginia water snakes have many different types of habitats to thrive in.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most common kinds of water snakes in Virginia.

Collage of water snakes in Virginia

4 types of water snakes in Virginia

The most common water snakes in Virginia include the Northern Cottonmouth, Common Water Snake, Brown Water Snake, and the Plain-Bellied Water Snake.

1. Cottonmouth

image: Robert Nunnally | flickr | CC 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Agkistrodon piscivorus
  • Length: 26 — 35 in
  • Venomous: Yes

Cottonmouths are the only semi-aquatic snakes on this list that are venomous. However, as cottonmouths are semi-aquatic, they can spend an equal time in water and on land, thriving in both types of habitats.

Cottonmouths prefer living near bodies of water and can normally be found in habitats near creeks, swamps, marshes, streams, lakes, and ponds. Occasionally, you may also see cottonmouths swimming in salt water! However, as cottonmouths are semi-aquatic, they can also thrive in habitats away from water, such as in wooded areas.

These snakes can be found in different parts of Virginia, though they are most common on the south eastern coast of the state. Elsewhere, they can be found along the eastern coast and throughout many central states in the United States.

2. Common Water Snake

Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr | Public Domain
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Length: 22 – 53 in
  • Venomous: No

The Common Water Snake, also sometimes called the Northern Water Snake, can be found throughout central and eastern North America. These snakes enjoy living as close to water as possible. Often, they’ll live in beaver lodges or muskrat houses, as they prefer living in sticks and plants near the water.

The Common Water Snake in Virginia live near rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, and marshes. Often, you may see these types of snakes basking in the sun on logs, rocks, or on land beside the water. They are active both day and night!

These snakes lounge around in the day and prefer to hunt at night. Their diet mainly consists of small fish, frogs, and worms. They’ll also eat small mammals and birds, though, when they hunt outside of the water!

3. Brown Water Snake

photo by Sabrina Setaro via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia taxispilota
  • Length: 30 — 60 in
  • Venomous: No

Brown Water Snakes are typically found in southeastern coastal states in the United States, though they can also be found in south central states, and Michigan. In Virginia specifically, these snakes can be found in the southeastern coastal towns.

Brown Water Snakes prefer to live near permanent bodies of water, as do most water snakes. These kinds of snakes can often be found living in swaps and streams.

These snakes are non-venomous, though they can get extremely large. Their large size and distinct markings make many think they are moccasins, or venous cottonmouths!

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4. Plain-Bellied Water Snake

image by Northeast Coastal & Barrier Network via Flickr | CC-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nerodia erythrogaster
  • Length: 24 — 40 in
  • Venomous: No

Plain-Bellied Water Snakes are mostly aquatic snakes that can be found in every single southeastern state in the United States. In Virginia specifically, they tend to be found the most on the southeastern coast.

These snakes prefer to live near permanent bodies of waters. For the most part, they like habitats directly near rivers, lakes, ponds, and floodplains. Their diet, as a result of their aquatic nature, often consists of fish, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish.

Plain-Bellied Snakes are most active during the hot summer months of the year. During these hot days, these snakes will be active throughout both the day and the night! Interestingly, during very humid days, these snakes will get out of the water and even go quite a distance from their water habitat, preferring to spend a lot of time on land when they can.