Other common names

Common watersnake

Basic description

Most adult midland watersnakes are about 24-30 inches (60-76 cm) in total length. Adults are stout-bodied and light brown with dark brown or reddish-brown crossbands near the neck, which are often outlined in black. These crossbands change into alternating blotches further down the body. There are dark squarish markings on the sides of the body between the dorsal blotches that extend upwards from the belly. Juvenile coloration is similar to that described for adults.

small patterned snake on pavement
Midland watersnake. Photo courtesy of hunterewgley/iNaturalist

Range in Florida

In Florida, midland watersnakes are only found in the western Panhandle, within the Choctawhatchee, Escambia, and Yellow River basins. Verified records exist only from Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties. The range may extend to other nearby areas, but there are no confirmed records from other Florida counties. If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.

Assessment of risk to people and pets

Non-venomous. midland 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

dark snake with tan striped head
Photo by Coleman Sheehy.

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.

Eastern Copperhead
Photo courtesy of bobbyfingers/iNaturalist

Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Southern watersnake
Photo courtesy of Todd Pierson.

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
Photo courtesy of Todd Pierson.

Brown Watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota) Brown watersnakes have squarish dorsal blotches along the entire body.

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.

Banner photo courtesy hunterhewgley/iNaturalist/CC-BY-NC-4.0. Please credit any photographers on the page and see our copyright policy.