Broad-Banded Watersnake

Nerodia fasciata confluens
Other Common Name
Broad-Banded Water Snake
Family

Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Description

The broad-banded watersnake is a beautiful semiaquatic snake named for its broad, irregular shaped bands or blotches along the back. The bands may be brown, red-brown, or black and are separated by yellow or yellowish gray. There is often a faint dark line running diagonally from the eye past the corner of the mouth. The belly is yellow and boldly marked with black. The young are more brightly colored than the adults. When threatened and not allowed to escape, this species will flatten its head and neck and try vigorously to defend itself. Watersnakes bite viciously in defense and also secrete a strong-smelling musk from glands at the base of the tail.

Similar species: This and other watersnakes are often confused with the venomous western cottonmouth and needlessly killed. The true cottonmouth is more heavy-bodied with a larger, chunky head; has a facial pit between the nostril and eye on either side of the head; is darker; and has a light line from each eye to the corner of the mouth.

Size

Length: 22 to 36 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Normally most active at night, is it sometimes seen basking in sunlight on logs or among branches above the water in cypress swamps, river sloughs, or oxbow lakes. Like other watersnakes, broad-banded watersnakes are often mistaken for western cottonmouths and needlessly killed.

Foods

Foods include fish, frogs, toads, and tadpoles.

Broad-banded Watersnake
Distribution in Missouri

Restricted to the southeastern corner of the state.

Life cycle

Normally active between late March and October. Courtship and mating occur in April and early May. The young are born alive during late July, August, or early September. A litter may include 7-40 young, which range in length from about 7-9 inches.

Human connections

For as long as there have been humans, snakes have captured our imaginations. In myth, religion, and story, snakes perform the role of seducer, sneak, guardian, healer, killer, and transformer. They symbolize power, wisdom, sexuality, and life itself, and have been worshiped and reviled.

Ecosystem connections

Snakes use organs in their tongues and mouths to detect odors and track their prey. Apparently, this works not only for land snakes but also for watersnakes like this one, making them efficient predators of the fish, frogs, and tadpoles they eat.