The Water Snakes of Texas love slithering around- and swimming in ponds, lakes, and streams, and while non-venomous, they’re aggressive and offensive, defecating on you if you handle them.
Water Snakes in Texas – Near Water where there’s a Variety of Food
The last place that many people expect to see a snake is when they’re swimming in the sea or in a river. The truth is – all snakes can swim, but there are some snakes that live essentially in water.
Snakes, when swimming, have to come up for air, so sea snakes, for instance, will usually be found in the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean. There are more than 40 different kinds of sea snakes, all belonging to the Cobra family.
Sea snakes are very poisonous. But what about freshwater snakes – are they strictly water bound and are they also venomous?
Water snakes are not to be confused with sea snakes which live entirely in marine environments. Water snakes can live inland, but like being close to water.
Freshwater snakes belong to the Colubridae family. The coloration of water snakes can vary somewhat but mostly they are drab looking – browns, grays, olive greens. They Leave the Water Occasionally.
These snakes live around or in water, feeding on a rich variety of creatures. They aren’t bound to their watery environments and will leave the water to bask in the sun or to breed. Some of them will even go up into trees where they dangle in the branches above the water. If there is a threat, they will simply drop down into the water.
These water snakes are solitary animals and they’re most active during the day although they are known to hunt at night too. They hibernate in the winter and are fairly social just before and after hibernation when they are seen basking together in the sun.
Lots of Tasty Treats close to the Water’s Edge
Their diets are mainly made up of toads, salamanders, birds eggs and fish. They swallow their prey whole and while the prey still has life. They normally hunt in shallow water but are prepared to go to deeper waters if needs be.
Recent studies tell us that there are some water snakes that produce a venom-like protein in their saliva. This can make the prey bleed and if it does make an escape, the snake is able to follow its prey because of the blood.
These water snakes are not venomous but they’re aggressive and bad-tempered most of the time. They certainly don’t like being handled and will defecate on you or opt to excrete a foul-smelling substance from their anal scent glands.
In North America, the most abundant water snake is the Neroda which is made up of 11 species. The tan to grey Northern water snake with dark brown blotches is the most common species. It is quite a large snake and gets to about 4.5 feet in length.
There are many other species of water snakes, each possessing their own distinctive appearance.
Are there Water Snakes in Texas?
Yes, there are several. They are non-venomous. The Cottonmouth, known as the Water Moccasin lives in the water too. It is easy to become confused with snakes, and one of the snakes which is easy to confuse with water moccasins is the water snake.
Cottonmouths or water moccasins are fairly short and stocky while water snakes are somewhat longer and are more slender. Also, water moccasins will boldly defend their territory while water snakes prefer to move away from threats and disturbances.
However, there are different kinds of water snakes found in the United States, and while some look quite different, there are some that even a snake expert would have difficulty with telling apart. It’s because they take on the habits of some of the venomous snakes.
Another name for the Cottonmouth is Water Moccasin. These snakes swim on top of the water, and what is unique to them is that they float on the surface of the water when at rest. On the other hand, water snakes keep themselves submerged below the water surface.
The water moccasin is a venomous semi-aquatic snake with big triangular heads. They can grow to 4 feet in length.
They have dark crossbands on a brown and yellow base color with the underside having dark and brownish-yellow blotches. They’re pit vipers and are found in nearly all freshwater habitats although they will go overland too. They look for their food after dark, consuming amphibians, lizards, small turtles, and even other snakes. They’re snakes which can be found all year round.
If you want to identify a water moccasin, you’ll recognize the large, flat, triangular head and the heat-sensing slits around the nose and eye area. Even though these snakes are venomous, they aren’t aggressive like the water snakes.
Most of these snakes just want to avoid humans and they only attack when they are threatened. They coil their bodies, vibrate their tails and open their mouths wide as a scare tactic, all the while making hissing sounds. These snakes are ovoviviparous and give birth to live young.
Diamond Back Water Snake
These are the most common water snakes in all of Texas with their range being the entire state. The round-eyed Diamondback Water Snake is a non-venomous colubrid snake belonging to the genus Nerodia.
You’ll find the snake in different aquatic habitats such as ponds, dams, streams, lakes, and swamps, occasionally wandering onto land. It’s a thick-bodied snake and adults can reach 5 feet in length. The colors of this snake are earthy – olive green, grey, dark brown, and there are dark blotches that run along the back and which are connected by a diamond-shaped pattern.
The snake is often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth snake, The Diamondback Watersnake, in true watersnake fashion, is irritable and will bite if threatened.
Blotched Water Snake
This snake is olive green to brown with dark grayish-brown blotches across the back. In the middle of each blotch, there is a narrow yellowish cross band. The snake can reach up to 3 feet in length.
The head is flat with dark bars on the lips and this is what separates this snake from the venomous Cottonmouth. When this snake is threatened, it flattens its head into a diamond-shaped look which makes many people confuse it with the Cottonmouth.
Yellow Bellied Water Snake
This is a non-venomous, medium sized water snake that you’ll find in ponds, swamps, rivers, and lakes. It has a yellow underside with a greenish/black skin with no pattern. The snake can grow up to about 4 feet, living in the Gulf Coast regions, from Georgia to Texas. Strongly patterned with brown dorsal and lateral blotches that may be joined to form transverse bars.
Are the Water Snakes of Texas Endangered?
There are two species of water snakes that have made it onto the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is the Concho water snake and the Brazos River water snake.
The Concho Water Snake
This is small, growing up to 3 feet in length and with dark reddish brown bands on the body. They live in streams in Texas. They hibernate in the Winter and become active from March to October. They catch their prey by hovering motionless near to where the fish are.
The snakes have to be careful because they can become a meal for the likes of herons, hawks and other snakes. They don’t live particularly long – just 5 years or so.
Brazos River water snake
This is a brown-grey snake with rows of spots running along the length of the body. The snake’s pattern is that of a checkerboard. The Brazos water snake can only be found in North Texas. They’re small snakes and they live along the Brazos River, liking rocky stream beds. It’s a water snake that gives birth to live young and 12 or so young are born.
Is it Legal to kill snakes in Texas?
There are many different snakes living in Texas, but only a few of them are venomous. One of them is the Cottonmouth. Even venomous snakes have a vital role in our environment – keeping rodent populations in check.
In Texas, there are many snakes that are protected by state law, and certainly, indiscriminate killing is illegal. It is illegal to kill a Timber Rattlesnake in Texas. If one of the venomous snakes is bothering you, before using any cruel snake control measures or even trying to catch- and relocate snakes, rather contact representatives of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Snakes are a natural and important part of the ecosystem and are invaluable for keeping populations of certain prey under control. Snakes are amazing creatures, and these days there is plenty of evidence about extraordinary snake behavior.
Snakes – Diverse and Fascinating
Snakes are highly mobile, and apart from slithering over sand, grass, over rocks, into burrows and up into trees, now we know that they can also swim and that some seek the water out as their home. Small wonder that so many people want to keep them as pets, but water snakes aren’t the best snake pet to have as they are aggressive, yet even they have their own unique, fascinating way of life.
Please read this article: HOW POISONOUS ARE CORAL SNAKES?