Other common names
Florida Green Water Snake
Most adult Florida green watersnakes are about 30-55 inches (76-140 cm) in total length. Adults are stout-bodied snakes and may be greenish, brownish, or orangish, with no real distinctive markings other than dark speckling. The head is large, with small scales between the eye and the upper lip scales. Juvenile coloration is similar to that described for adults.
Range in Florida
Florida green watersnakes are found throughout mainland Florida west to Walton County. They have not been recorded in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Holmes counties in the western Panhandle, and they are absent from the Florida Keys.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Florida green watersnakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they will readily bite to defend themselves. These snakes are not aggressive and avoid direct contact with people and pets. Virtually all bites occur when the snakes are intentionally molested.
Comparison with other species
Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon conanti) If the head is viewed from above, the eyes of cottonmouths cannot be seen while the eyes of watersnakes are visible. Cottonmouths have vertically elliptical (cat-like) pupils, whereas watersnakes have round pupils. Cottonmouths have a facial pit between the nostril and the eye, whereas watersnakes do not.
Saltmarsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii) Saltmarsh watersnakes often have several dark stripes running down the entire or partial length of the body, and they are usually only found along the coast in saltwater and brackish habitats.
Southern Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) Southern watersnakes have broad black, brown, or red crossbands (often bordered with black) down the back and a dark stripe that extends from the eye to the angle of the jaw.
Brown Watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota) Brown watersnakes have squarish dorsal blotches along the entire body.
Most adult Florida green watersnakes are about 30-55 inches (76-140 cm) in total length, with a record length of 74 inches (188 cm). Adults are stout-bodied snakes that may be greenish, brownish, or orangish, with no real distinctive markings other than dark speckling. The belly is unpatterned but light-colored, with a faint pattern beneath the tail. The head is large, with 1-3 small scales between the eye and the upper lip scales. The scales on the body are strongly keeled (each scale has a prominent raised ridge), and there are 27-29 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile coloration is similar to that described for adults.
Florida green watersnakes are commonly found in calm, shallow, vegetation-choked waters of prairies, marshes, lakes, ponds, and canals, especially in areas with open canopies.
When approached, Florida green watersnakes will typically flee for shelter or into the water. However, if they are cornered, both juveniles and adults will strike at the attacker. If grabbed or pinned, they will typically bite and release a foul-smelling musk from a pair of glands in the base of the tail. Nonetheless, these snakes are not aggressive, and striking is only used in defense as a last resort.
Florida green watersnakes feed primarily on amphibians and freshwater fishes. These snakes are not constrictors and overpower their prey by simply grabbing it in their jaws and quickly swallowing it alive.
In Florida, females typically give live birth to 20-30 and sometimes more than 100 young between June and September.
Although active mainly at night, Florida green watersnakes may be found during the day basking on banks or on mats of vegetation in the water.
Female Florida green watersnakes grow larger than males, and generally all large adults (over 3.5 feet in length) are females.
Unfortunately, many watersnakes are killed every year by Florida residents who mistake them for cottonmouths. Although cottonmouths occur throughout Florida, they are not nearly as abundant as the eight species of harmless watersnakes (species in the genus Nerodia) that occur in many of the same habitats. If you see a snake in or near the water, most likely it is a harmless watersnake, and it is best for everyone involved to simply leave it alone.
County data coming soon.
If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.
Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.
Gibbons, J.W. and M.E. Dorcas. 2004. North American Watersnakes: A Natural History. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. 438 pp.
Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, and P.E. Moler. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 706 pp.
Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins. 2016. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston and New York. xiv + 494 pp.
Share your observations
You can help scientists better understand the biology and distribution of this species by sharing your observations. Send photos or videos of interesting observations, along with associated information, by emailing the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum for documentation in the Museum’s Herpetology Master Database. You can also post your observations on iNaturalist.
Additional helpful information
Do you have snakes around your house? Learn how to safely co-exist with snakes.
Still have questions about snakes or identifications? Feel free to email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum with your questions or feedback on this profile.