Other common names

Saltmarsh Watersnake, Atlantic Saltmarsh Watersnake, Gulf Saltmarsh Watersnake, Mangrove Saltmarsh Watersnake

Basic description

Most adult Saltmarsh Snakes are about 15-30 inches (38-76 cm) in total length. Color patterns of these snakes are extremely variable. Adults can be gray, grayish-olive, brown, tan, or rusty orange, with variable patterns of dark stripes or bands down the body. However, some individuals may lack stripes entirely, and some individuals may be almost entirely black. Juvenile coloration is similar to that described for adults.

Range in Florida

In Florida, these snakes occur along most of the coastal perimeter of the state from Volusia to Martin Counties, from Broward County west to Gulf County, and in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. They are also found throughout the Florida Keys and on most barrier islands around the state. Among the coastal counties, the Florida Museum does not contain vouchered records of saltmarsh snakes from Nassau, Duval, Saint Johns, Flagler, Palm Beach, Bay, or Walton counties.

Assessment of risk to people and pets

Non-venomous. Saltmarsh Snakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they may bite to defend themselves. These secretive and generally docile 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) Venomous If the head is viewed from above, the eyes of cottonmouths cannot be seen while the eyes of watersnakes are easily visible. Cottonmouths have vertically elliptical (cat-like) pupils, whereas watersnakes have round pupils. Cottonmouths have a facial pit organ between the nostril and the eye, whereas watersnakes do not.

Side by side comparison of Florida Cottonmouth - coiled snake with its head raised and Saltmarsh watersnake - thin brown snake with pale stripes
Florida Cottonmouth. Photo courtesy of Luke Smith.
Saltmarsh Watersnake. Photo courtesy of Luke Smith.

Southern Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) Non-venomous 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. Furthermore, they almost exclusively live in freshwater habitats.

two images side by side - Image 1: Southern Watersnake coiled snake with raised head. Image 2: saltmarsh snake - thin brown snake with pale stripes.
Southern Watersnake performing defensive head flattening. Photo courtesy of Luke Smith.
Saltmarsh Watersnake. Photo courtesy of Luke Smith.

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 of Luke Smith. Please credit any photographers on the page and see our copyright policy.