10.01.2006 - I caught this Brown Water Snake, Nerodia taxispilota, on the shores of Lake Maitland, FL. Many people confuse this snake with the
venomous Cottonmouth, or Water Moccasin. The Brown Water Snake is, of course, an aquatic snake, just like the Cottonmouth. Most aquatic snakes have bulky
bodies. And of course pretty much all snakes have triangular heads larger in size than their necks. Thus, this snake does mimic the body shape of the
cottonmouth, in addition to sharing its habitat. However, the snake is not venomous. It does give birth to live young, just like the Cottonmouth. It can
give birth to up to 50 young. The largest an adult can grow to is about 4.5 feet. The one in this photo is more like 2.5 feet.
I've only caught a few. They are not uncommon, but they spend most of their times in lakes and ponds, and not in homes or swimming pools, and thus I don't get many calls for this snake. It is identifiable to the layman by its brown color and markings. The adult Cottonmouth is not brown, but black. Juvenile Water Moccasins do have brown bands. If you're unsure about the identity of any specie of snake, especially one in the water, just leave it alone! In fact, it's best to leave snakes alone in general. I released this one unharmed back into the lake.
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How to get rid of water snakes - Water snakes are very beneficial to ponds and lakes. The snakes keep populations of insects, amphibians, and reptiles to a minimum. If you really don't want the snakes around your property, they can be trapped with the same methods as a terrestrial snake. A water snake spends a good deal of time sunning itself on dry land. This helps with temperature regulation since the snake's body gets cold from swimming. Glue traps are effective against most snakes, and the water snake is no exception. Through the use of scent lures, the glue trap will draw the snake into the box-like contraption. Once inside, the snake will become fixed to the glue pad on the base of the trap. These traps are made for humane capture and relocation only. Do not leave the snake inside to suffer. As soon as you can, remove the snake to another body of water and apply cooking oil to the glue. The oil will deactivate the stickiness and will allow the snake to wiggle free. You can reuse the trap by rinsing it off with some water to clean it and then placing it back out by the pond.
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The brown water snake is a large nonvenomous snake endemic to the southeastern United States. The scientific name for the brown water snake is, “Nerodia taxispilota”. These brown water snakes can be found all over Florida and nearby states with a warm climate. The average size of an adult brown water snake is 30-55 inches (76.2-140 cm).
How can I identify a brown water snake?
A brown water snake's body is brown and its back and sides are marked with brownish-black square patches in a checkered-like pattern. A brown water snake's scales also have lengthwise ridges (keels). Additionally, unlike the similar-looking cottonmouth snake, the brown water snake is thinner and has distinct round eye pupils. The brown water snake also gives live birth, it does not lay eggs. Additionally, brown water snakes enjoy consuming catfish but catfish have very sturdy spines. If a brown water snake eats a catfish, the brown water snake will be exceedingly easy to identify with the sight of a catfish spine protruding from the snake's body.
Where and when should I look for brown water snakes?
Brown water snakes are generally found in Florida and can be found in warm climates in the southeastern United States. Brown water snakes tend to make their homes around freshwater habitats with plenty of trees and fallen branches so that they can bask in the sun. Brown water snakes are active inconsistently during both the day and at night. During the day, they can usually be found basking in the sun on a high branch. At night, they're likely to be closer to the ground or in the water hunting for aquatic creatures. Brown water snakes are excellent swimmers and they're usually found traveling in the water rather than on land.
In the spring season, between April and May, brown water snakes begin their mating season. In the late summer females birth between 20-60 baby snakes. The egg hatching process is completed inside the body meaning the females do not lay eggs, they have live births. During the first three years of their life, brown water snakes grow rapidly. Generally, a brown water snake will live for approximately six years.
Are brown water snakes dangerous?
Although brown water snakes look intimidating, they are really harmless. Brown water snakes are nonvenomous, meaning they're not poisonous. Brown water snakes will bite you if they feel threatened which will certainly injure you, but the bite won't put you in any real danger. Brown water snakes like to climb up to tree limbs to bask in the sun. When they're frightened by a nearby boat, brown water snakes can fall off the tree. It's possible that a brown water snake will fall in your boat which can cause quite a fright. Just get a stick and throw the snake into the water if this happens to you. Brown water snakes feed on primarily fish, frogs, toads, and other small aquatic creatures. Occasionally brown water snakes will even eat a small rodent or smaller snake, but they are not a danger to humans or any large pets.