5 Water Snakes in Massachusetts (with Pictures)

Massachusetts is a bit colder than some of the southern states, so there aren’t as many reptiles, but there are still a few species of water snakes that have settled in Massachusetts. These animals usually spend time near bodies of water to hunt, but also to cool down during the summer.

Take a look at water snakes in Massachusetts:

  • Copperhead
  • Common Water Snake
  • Smooth Green Snake
  • Common Garter Snake
  • Eastern Racer

1. Copperhead

Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix

This venomous snake species, while rare, can be found in the counties of Norfolk, Berkshire and Hampden. They often occupy bodies of water, even though they don’t eat fish.

Some scientists have recognized the Massachusetts copperhead as a separate species, but this has been refuted as there are no DNA differences between Massachusetts copperheads and other copperheads.

  • Size: no more than 3 feet.
  • Color: pink and rust, with light bands over the body.
  • Venom: non-lethal to humans, but can cause minor injury.
  • Food: mostly small animals – birds, lizards, and rodents.

2. Common Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

You’ll find this species across the entire Bay State, except for the Dukes County. The common water snake spends its entire life in the water, hiding in the vegetation and waiting for a fish or a frog to pass by.

They prefer calm bodies of water to moving bodies of water, so you’ll most likely come across one near a lake, as they avoid rivers. There, they hunt for fish, frogs, and small rodents.

They kill by striking, but they also have an anticoagulant (a blood thinner) in their saliva. According to some experts, this could be the first step in evolution and developing a venom. However, they don’t have needle-like teeth yet, so they can’t deliver that anticoagulant properly, so it’s only effective against small animals.

  • Size: around 4 feet and 5 inches at their maximum.
  • Color: brown, gray, and olive with dark bands covering the entire body.
  • Venom: no venom, but there is an anticoagulant in their saliva. It isn’t dangerous to humans, though.
  • Food: small frogs, fish, and rodents.

3. Smooth Green Snake

Scientific name: Opheodrys vernalis

Often referred to as the grass snake, these snakes inhabit marshes, stream edges, and flooded fields around the entire Old Colony State. Their numbers are, unfortunately, declining because of habitat loss.

It prefers staying near bodies of water because they offer camouflage – these snakes are slender and entirely green, so it’s virtually undetectable in tall grass. It mostly eats very small animals and insects.

  • Size: up to 26 inches.
  • Color: entirely green with a light-yellow belly.
  • Venom: none, they kill by repetitive biting.
  • Food: spiders, caterpillars, moths, snails, slugs, earthworms.

4. Common Garter Snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis

A very common species in Massachusetts, you can find the garter snake around the entire state, especially near water. They mostly eat amphibians and earthworms, but fish and small birds are on the menu too.

They are actually venomous, but there isn’t too much venom in their saliva and it’s not very potent. If bitten, an adult human will only have some itching and swelling.

This, however, is a similar situation to that of a common water snake, so it’s possible that they’re currently developing a venom and an effective method of applying it.

  • Size: up to 4 feet.
  • Color: a variety of colors; blue, yellow, gold, orange, black – a stripe down the back.
  • Venom: very weak and not dangerous to humans.
  • Food: salamanders, frogs, fish, and small birds.
  • Interesting fact: they have a plethora of intimidating poses that they use when threatened to ward off predators.

5. Eastern Racer

Scientific name: Coluber constrictor

Except for Nantucket, we can spot this snake around the entire state of Massachusetts. You’ll most likely find it near water – in swamps and lakes, hiding in tall grass.

As the name suggests, they’re very quick snakes, and they use their speed to catch and swallow their prey alive. They’re also very difficult to catch because they’ll most likely see you before you see them and they’ll run away.

  • Size: up to 60 inches.
  • Color: mostly black.
  • Venom: none, they mostly eat live prey.
  • Food: small rodents, frogs, lizards, and other snakes.
  • Interesting fact: not only can they reach speeds of almost 10 miles an hour, they can also climb trees with ease.

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