Banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: Banded watersnakes are mid-sized — 24-48 in (61-106.7 cm) -– fairly heavy-bodied semi-aquatic snakes. Coloration is variable, with snakes ranging from light brown or reddish to black in ground-color with darker crossbands. Crossbands are larger on the middle of the back and narrower on the sides (unlike the bands of copperheads, Agkistrodon contortrix, which are hourglass-shaped). Crossbands may be obscured as the snake darkens with age, and some individuals appear uniformly dark. In addition to crossbands, there are squarish spots at the sides of the belly and a dark stripe from the eye to the angle of the jaw.

Range and Habitat: Banded watersnakes are found along the Coastal Plain of the US from southwest Alabama to North Carolina. In our region, this species is restricted to the Coastal Plain and is replaced by the closely-related Northern Watersnake (N. sipedon) in the Piedmont and mountains. Banded watersnakes can be found in nearly all freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, swamps, and marshes.

Habits: Banded watersnakes are commonly seen in the vicinity of many aquatic habitats and are active both day and night. They may be seen basking on logs or branches overhanging the water or foraging in shallow water for fish and amphibians, their principal prey. Watersnakes are viviparous, giving birth to 15-20 young in late July or August.

Conservation Status: Banded Watersnakes are common in our region and are not protected throughout most of it. This species is protected throughout the state of Georgia.

Pertinent References:

Willson, J. D., C. T. Winne, and L. A. Fedewa. 2005. Unveiling escape and capture rates of aquatic snakes and salamanders (Siren spp. and Amphiuma means) in commercial funnel traps. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 20:397-403.

Willson, J. D., C. T. Winne, M. E. Dorcas, and J. W. Gibbons. 2006. Post-drought responses of semi-aquatic snakes inhabiting an isolated wetland: Insights on different strategies for persistence in a dynamic habitat. Wetlands 26:1071-1078.

Hopkins , W.A., Roe, J.H., Phillippi, T., and J.D. Congdon. 2004. Standard and digestive metabolism in the banded water snake, Nerodia fasciata . Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology – Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 137(1): 141-149.

Account author: Jessica Holland, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson