Common or Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
Common Watersnakes are highly variable in color, pattern and shape. The back is usually brown, gray or black with reddish brown to light brown spots or bands along the body. Large adult snakes are often heavy bodied and are entirely brown or dull black in coloration. Their belly is cream-colored to yellow with half-moon spots on each belly scale. Scales are keeled and the anal plate is divided.
Adult Common Watersnakes can reach 3 to 4 feet in total length.
Common Watersnakes occur throughout Kentucky. They can be found in any aquatic habitat, including streams in suburban and urban areas.
Common Watersnakes mate in spring or early summer. Females give birth to live young in late summer to early fall. Litter sizes range from 4-100 but average litter sizes are between 20-30 young. Common Watersnakes are generalist feeders. They are known to prey on fish, frogs, toads, salamanders, insects and leeches. They are active during the day and at night.
Common Watersnakes are Kentucky’s most abundant Watersnake species. When threatened, Common Watersnakes will expand their jaw and flatten their head to make it look larger. They will strike and bite, as well as release musk, if captured. These snakes are often mistaken for venomous Cottonmouths and killed. Cottonmouths are only found in western Kentucky. Any heavy bodied, aquatic snakes in central or eastern Kentucky are likely Common Watersnakes.