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Creature of the Week: Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon)

April 04, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Northern watersnakes are in the family Colubridae (which makes up two thirds of all snake species) and are the most common watersnake in Virginia. They are found statewide and have a vast range.  

Northern Watersnake

AHHH!!!  Snake!

Despite their large size, northern watersnakes are not venomous; however, when picked up, they are known to bite repeatedly and, therefore, should be admired using a "look but don't touch" approach.

 

Northern Watersnake Scales

They have keeled scales and can possess a very thick body, so it's easy to mistake one for a venomous eastern cottonmouth.  For safety, it's best to make this assumption first, but if you can see its head without getting too close, you will instantly recognize this harmless snake.

 

Northern Watersnake

Spade-shaped head of the harmless northern watersnake

vs.

Eastern Cottonmouth Shovel-shaped head of the venomous eastern cottonmouth.

Northern Watersnake Juvenile

Young northern watersnakes do not have the spade-shaped head of adults. Their heads are more rounded like those of a "typical" snake.

Northern Watersnake

So, the next time you venture into an area near water...

Northern Watersnake

...you might just encounter a northern watersnake.

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