10 Water Snakes in Ohio (Pictures and ID Guide)

The term ‘water snake’ refers to aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes that spend the majority of their lives around water. We can find at least 10 species of snakes in Ohio that behave like this, and today, we’ll be learning all about them.

The ten species of water snakes in Ohio are:

  • Black Racer
  • Common Garter Snake
  • Queen Snake
  • Eastern Fox Snake
  • Rough Green Snake
  • Copperhead
  • Plain-bellied Water Snake
  • Copperbelly Water Snake
  • Common Water Snake
  • Lake Erie Water Snake

Table of Contents

1. Black Racer

Scientific name: Coluber constrictor

This species is common in eastern Ohio, with a few isolated groups in the northwest. There, this animal inhabits wetlands and flooded fields, where it imposes itself on its prey with its incredible swimming abilities.

They’re also very quick on land – this is why they’re called racers. When hunting, they don’t use venom. Instead, they just catch up with their prey and swallow it alive.

  • Size: up to 60 inches.
  • Color: black.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live prey.
  • Food: small frogs, rodents and lizards.

2. Common Garter Snake

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis

This is one of the most common snakes in the entire country, and in Ohio, we can find them across the entire state. They’re very easy to recognize, as they’re black or dark brown with a stripe running down their back.

They’re often found near permanent water sources, but they’re not as dependent on them as some other animals on this list. To kill, they use venom, but it’s so underdeveloped and weak that it’s completely harmless for people.

  • Size: up to 4 feet, thin.
  • Color: many different colors within the same family – usually dark with a bright stripe.
  • Venom: dangerous for very small animals.
  • Food: small frogs and lizards.

3. Queen Snake

Scientific name: Regina septemvittata

The southeast of the Buckeye state is home to the queen snake – a species of snake eating almost exclusively crayfish – preferably crayfish with soft shells. It usually inhabits lakes, ponds, wetlands and slow-moving streams.

They’re one of the most aquatic species on this list, as they only leave water to mate or to run from predators. We can most often spot them hanging on branches above water and sunbathing.

  • Size: up to 24 inches.
  • Color: dark brown with lightly-colored belly.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: almost exclusively crayfish.

4. Eastern Fox Snake

Scientific name: Pantherophis vulpinus

This extremely rare and endangered species can be seen in the northwest, on the shores of Lake Erie, where it usually rests. These snakes usually inhabit marshes and wetlands, often exploring areas adjacent to those bodies of water.

Unfortunately, this snake is endangered because of habitat loss. It’s also a common target of human attacks because it’s very similar to rattlesnakes – so much so that it vibrates its tail when threatened.

  • Size: up to 60 inches, reasonably thick.
  • Color: usually a pattern of brown and dark brown.
  • Venom: none, they constrict their prey.
  • Food: small mammals and birds.

5. Rough Green Snake

Scientific name: Opheodrys aestivus

This snake has lately been reported only in Ross county, but it’s very likely that it has gone unreported in other Ohio counties too. They’re very active near bodies of water, which they use to their advantage.

Since they’re completely green, these snakes can be painfully difficult to spot in the wild – this makes them difficult to catch and to hunt. They spend most of their time hunting for insects.

  • Size: up to 45 inches.
  • Color: entirely green with a light belly.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: insects.

6. Copperhead

Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix

This snake can adapt to virtually any environment, so finding them in wetlands and flooded fields in south Ohio isn’t odd. They’re the only venomous snake on this list (given that common garter snake venom isn’t dangerous), but they luckily stay away from urban environments.

Their bites are rarely fatal, since their venom is made to kill small animals, not large humans. It is, however, very painful and it can cause an allergic reaction. The copperhead is a secretive snake, though, so it’s unlikely you’ll come across it.

  • Size: up to 3 feet.
  • Color: bands all along the body; pink, rust, brown and dark brown.
  • Venom: not lethal, but definitely painful.
  • Food: mainly small animals.

7. Plain-bellied Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster

Endangered in Ohio, we can find this species only in Williams county. There, this dark snake inhabits pockets of flooded fields and wetlands. It’s very easy to recognize – it’s almost entirely black with a red belly, and often a red head.

It belongs to the Nerodia genus, which literally means ‘water snake’. Although they’re not the only species of snakes to concentrate their lives on bodies of water, they’re the ones that do it the most.

However, out of all water snakes, the plain-bellied water snake is the most terrestrial one. It often wanders away from the safety and comfort of lakes and marshes.

  • Size: up to 40 inches.
  • Color: very dark, with a red belly and underside.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: frogs and salamanders.

8. Copperbelly Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta

Another rare and, sadly, threatened species – we can find the copperbelly water snake in northwestern Ohio. They’re threatened because of habitat loss – draining fields, marshes and swamps, which are this snake’s primary habitat – led to a drop in numbers.

They’re the only snake to actually hunt in small groups, although this behavior is now more rare, because of the small number of remaining snakes. They usually eat frogs, salamanders and small fish.

  • Size:  up to 5 feet.
  • Color: dark gray or black with a bright belly.
  • Venom: none, they swallow live prey.
  • Food: mostly frogs and salamanders, sometimes small fish.

9. Common Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

As the name suggests, this is the most common water snake, and it’s actually one of the most common snake species in Ohio. We can find it across the entire state, as it’s widely distributed.

It usually inhabits marshes and flooded fields, often seen sunbathing near water. They’re not very approachable and will flee on sight, as soon as they see people.

  • Size: very thick and up to 4 feet long.
  • Color: completely black, possibly dark gray.
  • Venom: none, but their teeth are sharp and their bites can cut deeply.
  • Food: mostly small fish.

10. Lake Erie Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon insularum

This species is actually a subspecies of the common water snake, but we can only find them near Lake Erie islands, as they’re an endemic species. They’re different from common water snakes because they lack the crossbands pattern.

Although rare and threatened, the future seems to be bright for this species, as they seem to peacefully coexist with people.

  • Size: up to 4 feet.
  • Color: dark, but without the crossbands pattern.
  • Venom: none.
  • Food: small fish and frogs.

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