Water snakes of the Dallas Fort Worth area

       Water snakes are very common in the Dallas Fort Worth area.  They are non-venomous, pose no threat to humans, and should not be killed.  These snakes commonly occur in rivers, creeks, lakes, marshes, swamps, and manufactured bodies of water including ponds and stock tanks.

          Water snakes lack venom, but they can defend themselves by delivering a series of rapid bites while smearing feces and musk onto anyone attempting to capture them.  Water snakes only bite whenever captured or handled and pose no threat to humans.  Unfortunately, water snakes are often confused with the venomous cottonmouth.  Fortunately, water snakes are easy to distinguish from cottonmouths as can be seen here: Link to water snake / cottonmouth comparison.

     The water snakes occurring in north-central Texas primarily consume frogs. Despite popular opinion, these snakes do not hunt many fish.  On occasions, specimens are known to take advantage of small fish trapped in shrinking pools that were drying out from a summer drought or those found in shallow streams.   However, under normal circumstances, healthy game and sport fish are too fast for the snake to capture.  In fact, by removing sick or weakened fish, this snake actually helps and improves fish populations.

     While water snakes predate upon many small animals, they serve as a food item to several others and are an important component of the food chain.  Wading birds consume various sizes of water snakes, fish including bass, catfish, and gar will consume juveniles. Reptiles predators include snapping turtles and alligators while mammals including cats, opossums, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons are additional predators known to make an occasional meal out of water snakes.

 

Blotched Water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster transversa)

 The dorsal coloration of this species is olive green to brown coloration with a series of dark grayish-brown blotches across the back. A narrow creamy yellow to beige cross band is present in the center each blotch.  The ventral surface is yellow with a suffusion of light brown along the edges.  Juveniles are boldly patterned with a series of dark gray-brown blotches on the dorsum.  A pinkish hue is present between the dark blotches.  The overall coloration darkens as the snake matures.

 Size: The blotched water snake is a medium sized snake with adults reaching an average length of 2-3 feet (0.61-0.91 m).

 Reproduction: Females give birth to live young.  Mating occurs in the late spring and females give birth during the late summer.  Depending upon the size of the female, litter size may vary and consist of 8 to 30 young.  Newborn blotched water snakes are typically between 8 to 10 inches in length.

Suburban habitat for Blotched Water Snakes in Arlington, Texas.

Juvenile Blotched Water Snake. Texas: Dallas County: Grand Prairie

Adult Blotched Water Snake: Texas: Tarrant County: Arlington

Ventral aspect. Blotched Water Snake: Texas: Tarrant: Arlington 

Severity of average water snake bite. A few hours later, the small cut on the hand was barely visible.

Dark phase of the Blotched water snake. Texas: Tarrant: Fort Worth: Fort Worth Nature Center.
Photograph by Michael Smith

Broad-banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens)

 The dorsal coloration is yellowish-gray with dark brown to grayish blotches outlined in black.  The ventral coloration is yellowish with cinnamon blotches darkening to brick red and black pigmentation between many of the ventral scales.  The amount of ventral pattern is variable among populations.

 Size: The broad-banded water snake is a medium sized snake with adults reaching an average length of 20-30 inches.

 Reproduction: Mating takes place from April to May and females give birth to 7 to 40 young from mid summer to early fall.  Newborns typically measure 7-11 inches in length and bear a brighter pattern than do the adults.

 * This species occurs only in the eastern portions of the Dallas Fort Worth area.

A close up of the head of an adult (left) and juvenile (right) Broad Banded Water Snake
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin

A gray colored specimen from southwestern Louisiana.
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin
Variation in ventral (left) and dorsal coloration and pattern among populations of Banded Water Snakes
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin
 
   

Diamond back Water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)

 The dorsal coloration of this species is drab olive to gray with a series of blackish-brown lines forming a diamond-like network extending the length of the body.  Vertical bars are present along the sides of the body and the ventral surface is creamy yellow with a series of dark crescents.  Juveniles are colored similarly as the adults.  The iris is reddish orange.

 Size: The diamond back water snakes is a medium sized snakes with adults reaching an average length of 2-3 feet (0.61-0.91 m).

Reproduction: Mating occurs from late spring to early summer and females usually give birth in August.  Depending upon the size and age of the female litters can range from 8 to 62 young.

Specimen from western Louisiana
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin

Female with newborns. Texas:Tarrant County: Aledo
Photograph by Michael Smith

An adult Diamondback Water Snake: Texas: Hood County
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin
 Sub adult specimen. Texas: Hood County
Photograph by Carl J. Franklin
   
A 2 day old  Diamond Back Water Snake. Texas: Tarrant County.
Photograph by Michael Smith