CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Florida Watersnake - Nerodia fasciata pictiventris

(Cope, 1895)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Southern Watersnake CA Range MapLocations of introduced populations
in California: Red

Click map to enlarge



observation link





Introduced: not native to California

It is against the law to capture, move, possess, collect, or distribute this invasive species in California.

If you find an aquatic snake in California that you think is a Watersnake (Nerodia), please send pictures
of it to the California Nerodia Site, which is tracking the distribution of this potential threat to native fish and wildlife.


Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake
Adult, Sacramento County. © Gary Nafis. Specimen courtesy of Eric Stitt
Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake
Adult, Sacramento County Adult, Sacramento County Two adults breeding on top of
a log in a pond in Sacramento County
Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake
Adult, Los Angeles County © Jonathan Hakim
Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake
  Adult, Los Angeles County  
Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake Southern Watersnake
Adult, Los Angeles County Adult, Sacramento County,
© Eric Stitt
  Watersnake  
Adult, San Joaquin County. © Edgar Ortega
The species of this Nerodia is unclear. It is included here until I find out exactly what it is.
Environmentalists fear that the Nerodia introduced into Folsom and Roseville may eventually find their way into the Central Valley where they could out-compete the already endangered Giant Gartersakes. This one was found in an irrigation canal near Manteca in May, 2011. It could indicate that these snakes have already spread into Valley waters, or it could be a single snake released in that area or even a new population of alien Nerodia.
 
Habitat
Southern Watersnake CA Habitat Southern Watersnake CA Habitat Southern Watersnake CA Habitat
Habitat, Los Angeles County
© Jonathan Hakim
Habitat, Los Angeles County

Southern Watersnake CA Habitat Southern Watersnake CA Habitat Southern Watersnake CA Habitat
Habitat, Sacramento County Habitat, Sacramento County Habitat, Sacramento County


More pictures of Florida Watersnakes in Florida


Description

Not Dangerous (Non-poisonous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Considered harmless to humans, but the snake's saliva may produce inflammatory reactions around the site of a bite.

Size
Adults are generally 22 - 40 inches long (56 - 101 cm) and up to 60 inches (152 cm.)

Appearance
A dark, heavy-bodied snake with heavily-keeled scales.
The head has a more acute downward angle than Nerodia sipedon.
Color and Pattern
Color is yellowish to reddish-gray with 40 or more dark crossbands on the entire length of the body.
Old snakes may be almost entirely solid dark brown.
There is a dark stripe extending from the eye to the corner of the mouth.

Dark spots mark the venter, typically dark square or triangular spots sometimes with wavy cross lines.
Young
Juveniles are paler with a stronger pattern than adults.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Active during the day, and also at night.
Basks in the sun at water's edge on logs or overhanging limbs, moving into dens along banks in cold weather.
Will leave the water and travel overland a mile or more in search of food.
Defense
If threatened, may emit a strong-smelling musk and feces from its cloaca, flatten its body and strike repeatedly.
Diet and Feeding
Eats fish, frogs, salamanders, crayfish.
Breeding
Live-bearing.

Geographical Range
Introduced in and around Lake Natoma in the city of Folsom, Sacramento County
(Balfour et al. 2007. Herpetol. Rev. 38:489), and in Harbor City, Los Angeles County (Balfour and Stitt 2002. Herpetol. Rev. 33:150).

The species occurs naturally in the southeastern United States, from North Carolina to Florida, up the Mississippi into southern Illinois and east into central Texas.

Full Species Range Map
Red = Approximate Range of Nerodia fasciata - Southern Watersnake

Habitat
Occurs in and around permanent bodies of water, especially those bordered by woods.

Notes on Taxonomy
Watersnakes in Harbor City have been identified as Nerodia fasciata pictiventris - Florida Watersnake.
(2006. Herpetol. Rev. 37:363).

Using genetic analysis, watersnakes in the Folsom area have also been identified by as Nerodia fasciata pictiventris - Florida Watersnake. (Herpetological Review 38(4), 2007)

According to Michael Fuller of the Nerodia Working Group, a reproducing population of N. fasciata has existed in Harbor City for several years. While the snakes key out to N. f. pictiventris morphologially, preliminary mDNA results (as of 9/08) suggest that they are Nerodia clarkii, or possibly hybrids of N. clarkii and N. f. pictiventris. The habitat is a freshwater lake, typical of that used by N. fasciata, while N. clarkii typically inhabit brackish waters.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Spread of this snake downstream into the Sacramento Valley could possibly threaten populations of the already endangered Giant Gartersnake, Thamnophis gigas. It could also pose a threat to other native fish and wildlife.

As of Janurary 2008 it is against the law to capture, move, possess, collect, import, or distribute this invasive species and all non-native water snakes of the genus Nerodia in California without a permit: California Department of Fish and Game (Sec. 671, Title 14, Calif. Code of Regulations).
See: California Department of Fish and Game Restricted Species Regulations
Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Nerodia American Watersnakes Baird and Girard, 1853
Species fasciata Southern Watersnake (Linnaeus, 1766)
Subspecies

pictiventris Florida Watersnake (Cope, 1895)
Original Description
Nerodia fasciata - (Linnaeus, 1766) - Syst. Nat., 12th ed., Vol. 1, p. 378

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Nerodia - Greek - nereis - name of sea nymph
fasciata
- Latin - banded - refers to the banded pattern on dorsum
pictiventris - L. pictus painted, embroidered and L. ventris of the belly — ref. pattern and coloration of belly

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Southern Water Snake

Related or Similar California Snakes
Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi - Valley Gartersnake
Thamnophis gigas - Giant Gartersnake
Nerodia sipedon - Northern Watersnake

More Information and References

California Nerodia - a website about introduced populations of Nerodia found in California.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Southern Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) in Folsolm California (PDF)

Gibbons, J. Whitfield, Michael E. Dorcas. North American Watersnakes - A Natural History. University of Oklahoma Press. 2004.

Balfour, P. S., and E. W. Stitt. 2002. Geographic distribution: Nerodia fasciata fasciata. Herpetological Review 33:150.

Conant, Roger, & Collins, Joseph T. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern and Central North America Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Bartlett, R.D., & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Eastern and Central Regions. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.


Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


It is against the law to capture, move, possess, collect, or distribute this invasive species in California.
See: California Department of Fish and Game Restricted Species Regulations
Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None

 

Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -