11 Species of Water Snakes in Florida (with Pictures)

Even though most snakes move quickly and dexterously in water, there are some species that spend their entire lives in water. Today, we’ll be taking a close look at the most common species of water snakes in Florida, such as:

  • Florida Cottonmouth
  • Northern Cottonmouth
  • Crayfish Snake
  • Queen Snake
  • Salt Marsh Snake
  • Green Water Snake
  • Plain-bellied Water Snake
  • Banded Water Snake
  • Florida Green Water Snake
  • Common Water Snake
  • Brown Water Snake

1. Florida Cottonmouth

Scientific name: Agkistrodon conanti

This is the first of the two venomous species of water snakes in Florida. There, we can find it across the entire peninsula, as far as Key Vaca. Their population is the densest in Florida, which is how they got their name.

These snakes aren’t that long, but they’re a thick species and they spend most of their life in the water. Water holes are preferable, but they’ll also settle for small forests bordering bodies of water.

  • Size: usually no longer than 50 inches, but they weigh up to 10 pounds.
  • Color: very dark, sometimes black, and possible blotting of brown, gray, and tan.
  • Venom: lethal for most animals, but death in humans is rare. Will cause gangrene, fever, internal hemorrhaging, and severe pain.
  • Food: fish are their favorite food, but they’ll also eat small mammals and birds – especially those that spend time near water.
  • Interesting fact: cottonmouths are possibly the snake species with the most synonyms, often called copperheads, moccasins, cantils, water vipers, and rattlers.

2. Northern Cottonmouth

Scientific name: Agkistrodon piscivorus

We can find this venomous species south through Florida, where they usually inhabit bodies of water, particularly still bodies of water such as lakes and swamps. They also prefer warm water to cool water.

Northern cottonmouth is a great walker too. and larger specimens can crawl up to a mile away from water. Just like other cottonmouths, it feeds mainly on fish, small mammals, birds, and other snakes.

  • Size: largest of the cottonmouths – largest individuals are 6 feet long and they can weigh up to 20 ounces.
  • Color: like other cottonmouths, mostly dark with some blotting.
  • Venom: dangerous to small mammals – humans mostly survive the bite.
  • Food: mostly fish and small mammals, but birds and other snakes too.

3. Crayfish Snake

Scientific name: Liodytes rigida

Also known as the glossy swampsnake, this snake lives in northern Florida, where it usually lives in roadside ditches and wetland habitats such as swamps and ponds with plenty of habitation.

Interestingly, they don’t kill their prey before eating them. They mostly feed on crayfish (hence the name), and they hold them still with their teeth as they ingest them, while the crayfish is still alive.

  • Size: no more than 24 inches.
  • Color: brown and olive – very glossy.
  • Venom: none, they eat their prey alive.
  • Food: almost exclusively crayfish.

4. Queen Snake

Scientific name: Regina septemvittata

Another species of water snake found only in northern Florida, these snakes have a very specific set of requirements. For example, the water needs to be very clean, have rock bottoms and the temperature can’t fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

They also eat crayfish, which usually make up more than 90% of the snake’s diet, but they’ll sometimes eat frogs and snails. Therefore, the queen snake will only inhabit the same water crayfish inhabit.

  • Size: up to 24 inches, slender.
  • Color: gray, brown, and olive green.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: 90% of their diet are crayfish – they’ll also eat small frogs.

5. Salt Marsh Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia clarkii

This snake, as well as the rest of the snakes towards the end of the article, belongs to the Nerodia genus – the genus of water snakes. All of these snakes are characterized by the amount of time they spend in the water.

People often call all snakes that spend time in the water, such as the previous four entries, ‘water snakes’. However, formally, snakes from the Nerodia genus are the only true water snakes.

In Florida, we can find the salt marsh snake in Gulf Hammock, Cape Canaveral vicinity, along the Atlantic towards Miami and Tampa Bay, as well as a very small patch of coastline in counties Volusia and Indian River.

There are three subspecies of this snake in Florida, with the only differences being their colors. These snakes are secretive and nocturnal, hunting for fish in the shallows at night.

  • Size: up to 30 inches.
  • Color: gray, tan, green, reddish, sometimes with stripes (depending on the subspecies).
  • Venom: none, they catch fish and quickly swallow them alive.
  • Food: mostly small fish.

6. Green Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia cyclopion

We can find the green water snake in northwestern Florida, where it typically resides in bayous and lakes. There, it mainly preys on crayfish and small frogs. They’re thick, heavy-bodied snakes, often mistaken for venomous cottonmouths.

Green water snakes aren’t dangerous nor are they aggressive, and their bites generally don’t hurt. Most incidents are caused by mistreatment.

  • Size: up to 55 inches.
  • Color: mostly dark green and olive.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live food.
  • Food: mostly crayfish and small frogs.

7. Plain-bellied Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster

These uncommon snakes are usually found in the west Panhandle of the Ochlocknee River, and a separate population has formed eastern of the Panhandle, inhabiting parts of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers.

They’re large, thick and of solid coloring, usually inhabiting permanent water sources. The plain-bellied water snake is active during both night and day, and out of all the water snakes, they spent the least amount of time in water.

  • Size: up to 40 inches.
  • Color: black, brown, but also olive and lightly colored.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live prey.
  • Food: mostly salamanders and frogs, crayfish are rarer.

8. Banded Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia fasciata

Also known as the ‘southern water snake’, this snake is found in every county of the Sunshine State, except for the Florida Keys. People often confuse this species for the cottonmouth and needlessly kill it.

Their primary source of food is small frogs and fish, which is why they spend so much time in freshwater. They’re very quick and agile, so confrontations with humans are rare because the snake will easily run away.

  • Size: up to 42 inches, with a record-holding individual longer than 60 inches.
  • Color: mostly dark – green or brown. It’s impossible to discern a pattern because the color is usually very dark.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live prey.
  • Food: mostly small fish and frogs.
  • Interesting fact: they release a terribly-smelling musk when they’re in danger to deter predators.

9. Florida Green Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia floridana

We can find this species throughout most of Florida, with the exclusion of the Keys, as well as counties Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Holmes. This is the largest species of water snake in the country, usually reaching 55 inches, with a record-holder of 74 inches in length.

They usually stay in still waters, and they rarely inhabit rivers, where they swallow small fish alive. Interestingly, most snakes don’t reach maturity since mothers have big litters (20 to 40 babies) and predators eat most of them.

  • Size: about 55 inches.
  • Color: green and gray, the belly is white or yellow.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live prey.
  • Food: mostly small fish, sometimes small frogs.

10. Common Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

Also known as the ‘northern water snake’, this is a snake we can only find on the west tip of the Panhandle, but some experts speculate that it could have spread throughout the rest of Florida.

There, it is often mistaken for cottonmouths because of their similar coloring, as some of these snakes are entirely black. They mainly feed on small fish and frogs in the shallows.

  • Size: up to 4 feet.
  • Color: dark brown, dark gray, or completely black.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live food.
  • Food: mostly small fish and frogs from the shallows.

11. Brown Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia taxispilota

This species is endemic to northern and western Florida, where it usually lives in swamps and slow streams. The brown water snake mainly feeds on catfish, but other fish are on the menu too.

They’ll often grab their prey, bring it out to the shore and eat it after it chokes, but they also eat live prey. Brown water snakes aren’t nocturnal and their activity doesn’t depend on the time of day.

  • Size: up to 60 inches.
  • Color: dark brown with black blotches.
  • Venom: none, they drag fish out to the shore and eat them there.
  • Food: mostly fish, especially catfish.

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