10 Water Snakes in Kentucky (with Pictures)

There are six species of snake from the ‘water snake’ genus that have settled in Kentucky, with an additional four species of snakes that usually live near water. Today, we’ll be learning how to identify and where to find them.

The ten species of water snakes in Kentucky are:

  • Copperhead
  • Cottonmouth
  • Black Racer
  • Queen Snake
  • Rough Green Snake
  • Banded Water Snake
  • Copperbelly Water Snake
  • Diamondback Water Snake
  • Green Water Snake
  • Common Water Snake

1. Copperhead

Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix

Even though they’re common throughout the state, they’re more rare in the Inner Bluegrass Region. There, they stay in lowlands, preferably near streams or flooded fields.

Copperheads are one of the two venomous species on this list, but their venom isn’t lethal for humans, as it’s too weak for us. These stocky snakes are also secretive, so the chances of running into them are very slim.

  • Size: up to 4 feet, stocky.
  • Color: bands of pink, tan and copper.
  • Venom: too weak to kill a person, but it is painful and needs medical attention.
  • Food: small animals.

2. Cottonmouth

Scientific name: Agkistrodon piscivorus

Cottonmouths are one of the most aquatic venomous snakes in the world, and in Kentucky, they’re found in the western quarter of the state – usually in Jackson Purchase.

These snakes spend so much time in water because they mostly feed on fish and amphibians, such as frogs. They’re an inquisitive species, but they’re not aggressive and their venom, while dangerous, isn’t lethal to humans.

  • Size: up to 3 feet, very thick.
  • Color: usually very dark brown or black.
  • Venom: rarely lethal for humans, but it can lead to amputation.
  • Food: mainly fish, but also frogs and other snakes.

3. Black Racer

Scientific name: Coluber constrictor

Black racers are found throughout the entire Bluegrass State and they’re one of the most interesting snakes you could come across. Even though they prefer staying close to water, they’re not only great swimmers.

They’re also incredible climbers, capable of climbing trees with ease, and they’re very quick on land (at least for a snake). Black racers use this speed to their advantage when hunting or when running from predators.

  • Size: about 3 feet, but some reach 6 feet – very thin.
  • Color: entirely black.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live, overpowered prey.
  • Food: small frogs, lizards and rodents.

4. Queen Snake

Scientific name: Regina septemvittata

Usually found in central Kentucky and a small patch of wetlands on the eastern border, queen snake is one of the most aquatic snakes in Kentucky. They inhabit streams and rivers and they prefer quick waters to slow-moving waters.

There, they mostly feed on crayfish, opting for other foods only when there are no crayfish around. They eat by simply overpowering the fish and swallowing them alive.

  • Size: up to 24 inches, thin.
  • Color: dark brown, olive, dark gray – white belly.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: almost exclusively crayfish.

5. Rough Green Snake

Scientific name: Opheodrys aestivus

This snake is very common all across Kentucky, but it can be very difficult to spot. It’s completely green, and it uses its color to blend in with the vegetation to avoid predators.

It feeds mostly on insects, and it finds the largest ones in swamps, marshes and shores of slow-moving streams. The rough green snake spends the majority of its day sunbathing or hiding in vegetation.

  • Size: no longer than 2 feet.
  • Color: completely green, virtually undetectable in green vegetation.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: insects.

6. Banded Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia fasciata

A very rare species in Kentucky, found only in the westernmost parts of the state. They’re exclusively aquatic, so they’re not found in dry environments, where they prey on fish and amphibians.

Interestingly, they make good prey for cottonmouths, which we mentioned before. Since their habitat is so limited, they’re in desperate need of conservation in Kentucky.

  • Size: about 40 inches.
  • Color: dark green and dark brown, there are also auburn specimens, but they’re more rare
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: mostly amphibians.

7. Copperbelly Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta

Usually found in Indiana, this snake is seen crossing the border into Kentucky and staying in the northern part of the state. They’re a very secretive species, difficult to find and difficult to spot.

They usually eat frogs and small fish, while they were also observed to simply open their mouth and forage for tadpoles in the water – a strategy yet unseen in the world of snakes.

  • Size: up to 5 feet, thin.
  • Color: dark with a bright red belly.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: fish, frogs and tadpoles.

8. Diamondback Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia rhombifer

Found in the western part of Kentucky, the diamondback water snake inhabits aquatic environments, where it preys on fish. It uses an interesting hunting strategy – it hangs on branches over water and drops its head into the water to pull the fish out.

Even though they’re not venomous, their bites are very painful. They’ve developed long, sharp teeth in order to grab fish and hold it, so they’re more that capable of piercing through human skin.

  • Size: 48 inches.
  • Color: brown and olive, with diamond-shaped patterns along the back
  • Venom: none, but their teeth are very sharp.
  • Food: fish.

9. Green Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia cyclopion

Usually found near the Mississippi River, we can only see these snakes in western Kentucky. There, they occupy wetlands and flooded fields near the state border.

The green water snake usually eats fish and frogs, and it swallows its prey alive. Because of its dark-green color, it’s called the green water snake, but it’s also often called the Mississippi green water snake because their numbers in Mississippi are great.

  • Size: up to 3 feet.
  • Color: dark green with a lighter belly.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: fish and frogs.

10. Common Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

The most common of all water snakes, you’ll find this snake all over Kentucky, even approaching urban areas. They’re often killed by people because they mistake these snakes for cottonmouths.

However, these snakes aren’t venomous and they primarily feed on fish. Common water snakes rarely leave water and they spend most of their time in the shallows.

  • Size: thick, up to 4 feet long.
  • Color: completely black or dark gray and dark brown.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: mostly small fish.

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