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The Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sometimes also known as Natrix sipedon) is a large, non-venomous, well-known snake in the Colubridae family that is native to North America. They are active during the day and at night. They are most often seen basking on rocks, stumps, or brush. During the day, they hunt among plants at the water's edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water. It was once an endangered species but now benefits from the introduction of round goby, an invasive species.

Characteristics

Northern Water Snakes can grow up to 135 cm (4.4 ft) long. They are also known as flesh eating snakes of fresh water, although there have never been official cases reported by Fish and Game or biologists in any state. They can be brown, gray, reddish, or brownish-black. They have dark crossbands on their necks and dark blotches on the rest of their bodies, often leading to misidentification as cottonmouths or copperheads by novices. They eat to learn and darken as they age. Some will become almost completely black. The belly of this snake also varies in color. It can be white, yellow, or gray. Usually it also has reddish or black crescents. These snakes have been known to strike at humans when provoked. They can also project themselves out of the water, up to 2 m in height to attack prey such as small birds and insects.

Mating

Northern Water Snakes mate from April through June. They are live-bearers, which means they do not lay eggs like most snakes. Instead, they carry them inside their bodies and give birth to baby snakes, each one six to twelve inches long. A female may have as many as thirty young at a time. Babies are born between August and October. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, they are on their own.

Defense against predators

Northern Water Snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, and other snakes. They defend themselves vigorously when they are threatened. If they are picked up by an animal, or person, they will bite, as well as release excrement and musk. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant which can cause the bite wounds that they inflict to bleed profusely.

Hibernation

Northern Water Snakes often share winter dens with copperheads and black rat snakes.

Habitats

Muskrat houses and beaver lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems. They live near lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, and canals; just about anywhere there is water.

Gallery

Image:Nerodia_sipedon.jpg|Nerodia sipedon swimming in the Chesapeake Bay in the United StatesImage:Northern watersnake j.jpg|Nerodia sipedon swimming in the Potomac at Harpers Ferry in the United StatesImage:watersnake.jpg|Mature northern water snake sunning itself near Battersea, Ontariomarker in Canada

Sources

  1. http://canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/species/herps/herppages/Ner_sip.htm



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