Midland Water Snake
Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon pleuralis (COPE 1892)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Coluber sipedon – LINNAEUS 1758
- Tropidonotus sipedon – HOLBROOK 1852
- Nerodia sipedon – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
- Tropidonotus sepedon – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
- Natrix fasciata pleuralis – COPE 1892
- Natrix sipedon – DUNN 1915
- Natrix sipedon pleuralis – CONANT 1958
- Nerodia sipedon pleuralis – CONANT & COLLINS 1991
Description: Average adult size is 24-48 inches (60.9-121.9 cm), record is 59 inches (149.8 cm). Adults are light brownish with less than 30 darker brown crossbands near the neck, which break up into alternating blotches further down the body. These crossbands and blotches are separated by at least 2.5 dorsal scale rows of the lighter colored dorsal scales. There are dark squarish markings on the sides of the body between the dorsal blotches, which extend upwards from the belly. The belly is yellowish marked with two rows of half moons. The scales are keeled and there are 21-25 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juvenile coloration is similar to that of adults.
A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Keeled scales
Range: In Florida, the Midland Water Snake is found in the panhandle. Outside of Florida, it is found north and east to North Carolina and west to Louisiana, Oklahoma and Illinois.
Habitat: Uncommon in Florida, but it is sometimes found in steepheads and in rivers flowing south into the panhandle.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). The Midland Water Snake is mainly active at night. Its diet consists of small fishes, frogs, tadpoles, and salamanders. It is live-bearing. Litters of 12-30 are deposited from June-September.
Comparison with other species: The Southern Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata) has dorsal crossbands that extend the length of its body, squarish markings on the belly, and a dark stripe from its eye to last supralabial scale. The Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota) has squarish dorsal blotches along its entire body.
Harmless Water Snakes are frequently confused with the venomous Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). However, Cottonmouths can easily be distinguished from Water Snakes. Cottonmouths have a vertical pupil, a facial pit between its eye and nostril. If the head is viewed from above, the eyes of Cottonmouths cannot be seen while the eyes of Water Snakes are visible; Cottonmouths have elliptical pupils and Water Snakes have round pupils; and Cottonmouths have a facial pit between the nostril and the eye, which the Water Snakes do not.