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Species Description

Plain-bellied Water Snake

Nerodia erythrogaster

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae


The Plainbelly Water Snake is our only water snake with an unpatterned belly. Depending on geographic location the belly can be either yellow, orange-red, or red. Back and sides can be gray, greenish gray, or reddish brown to chocolate brown. The young are strongly patterned with large dark brown dorsal blotches and alternating blotches or spots on the sides, on a ground color of pinkish brown. This color pattern is lost or fades as the young reach adult size. Average length is from 76 - 122 cm (29.9 - 48 in), with females being larger than males. The scales are keeled and the anal scale is divided.

Life Cycle

Like all water snakes and garter snakes, this snake is viviparous,bearing live young. The Plainbelly Water Snake breeds in the spring during the months of April and May. From 10 to 55 young are born in August or September.

Natural History

This water snake can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats. including riverine swamps, bottomland streams, lakes, and marshes. It can occasionally be found considerable distances from water in more upland habitats. Foods of the Plainbelly Water Snake include many kinds of fish and amphibians. It is most active from February through November when temperatures are above 60 degrees F (140 degrees C).


Plain-bellied Water Snake Region Map The range of the Plainbelly Water Snake is basically the southeastern quarter of the United States, but it is absent from peninsular Florida and the highlands of the Appalachian Mountains. In Georgia, this species ranges throughout most of the state but it is absent from the mountains in the north and the southeastern corner surrounding Okefenokee Swamp.

Conservation Status

The Plainbelly Water Snake is fairly common in appropriate aquatic habitats.

Similar Species

All other water snakes and the venomous Cottonmouth have a patterned belly.