North America shelters around 11 species of water snakes that come from the Nerodia genus. The Florida banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) is one of these species which are known to be harmless, that dwell in water as well as on land. The distinctive features of the Florida snakes make them an interesting subject to study.
Snakes from these genus have a heavy body and are up to 4 feet in length. Keeled scales and a triangular mouth are the distinctive features of snakes originating from this genus. The Nerodia fasciata pictiventris is one such species which has unique stripes across its body, while other Nerodia snakes have blotches or diamond shaped patterns on their bodies.
Water snakes spend their lifetime near water sources, and are also often seen resting on trees. In case of any threatening situation, these snakes quickly make their way into the water. Some of the water snakes are categorized under viviparous, that give live birth to young ones, while some are oviparous, that lay eggs.
Certain water snakes live in the water mostly, and come out on land during the time of breeding and birthing. A great population of banded water snakes live in the freshwaters of Florida, and are the vital reptiles of the ecosystem. Let us take a further look into the habitat, diet, and behavior of these aquatic snakes.
Information on Species
Banded water snakes have a heavy and fat body structure. These aquatic snakes have black, brown or red bands running across their body. The faint stripes are mostly reddish or gray shades. These different patterns on the body is one of the distinctive features of banded water snakes, that gives them the most striking appearance.
With time, the bands begin to grow darker in shade and the belly portion retains its reddish yellow markings. These snakes are usually a length of 24 - 42 inches, but sometimes can even grow up to around 60 inches long. Keeled scales are rough to touch and gradually fade towards the tip.
The distribution of the keels differ as per the species of the snake, but are more intense in the male snakes. Towards the center of the body, the banded snakes have around 23 - 27 dorsal scales.
The dark color of the pupil matches well with the dark cross bands of the snake. The young ones, however, have bright red and black stripes across the body, which darken as they mature.
This Nerodia species is a non-venomous and harmless snake, but when threatened or handled, it has the tendency to quickly bite for protection. They mainly remain inactive during the day and are often seen hanging on the branches over the water and resting in the sunlight. As the night falls, the banded snakes remain active and are very alert and attentive.
Habitat and Distribution
Banded water snakes are spread throughout the Florida peninsula. They are also spotted in Southeastern Georgia, and are also spotted crawling in Texas. These snakes dwell in fresh shallow waters. Therefore, they are found in marshes, ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.
Reproduction and Diet
Snakes from the Nerodia species are ovoviviparous reptiles. The breeding season begins with the approach of spring. Towards the end of the summer, the female snake will deliver around 90 live neonates which are 8 - 10 inches in length. Florida banded snakes feed on frogs, dead fish, and other aquatic animals, and also amphibians.
This snake is harmless and dwells in the wild. Hence, they are prone to bite or emit foul musk in defense. These snakes are also confused with the cottonmouth snake, which is actually a venomous snake.
This confusion has taken the lives of many banded water snakes. These water snakes are among the common snakes of Florida, and must be well protected to prevent them from going into extinction.