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Broad-Banded Watersnake of Louisiana

Updated on October 23, 2018
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Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

The beautiful coloration on the underside of a broadbanded water snake in Louisiana.
The beautiful coloration on the underside of a broadbanded water snake in Louisiana. | Source

Reptile: Nerodia fasciata confluens

The Broad-banded is the only species of Banded Water Snake that lives in Louisiana. This attractive reptile is found in bodies of water all over Louisiana and the Southeastern United States. Unfortunately, these stout, non-venomous water snakes with colorful bellies, are often confused with Copperheads and Cottonmouths and are intentionally killed by humans.

The Broad-banded Watersnake is the only species of Banded Watersnake in Louisiana.

Identification of Broad-banded Water Snake

Broad-banded Watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata confluens), sometimes called Southern Watersnakes, are stout looking snakes with a series of reddish brown bands on a lighter background along their back. The underside or belly is yellowish with red wavy marks or spots on each scale.

The babies are similar to the adults, except their markings are more distinct and crisp.

Water snakes

a. Diamond-backed water snake, Nerodia rhombifers

b. Western green water snake, Nerodia cyclopion

c. Yellow-bellied water snake, Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster

d. Blotched water snake, Nerodia erythrogaster transversa

e. Dark phase of the southern water snake, Nerodia fasciata

f. Light phase of the southern water snake, Nerodia fasciata

g. Northern water snake, Nerodia sipedon

h. Salt march snake, Nerodia clarkia

Compare these Watersnakes to the Copperhead and Cottonmouth

Venomous Snakes

C. Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix

D. Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus

 

Photo Reference: Harold A. Dundee and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana

Broad-banded on the Tchefuncte River

This photo was taken while we were canoeing near our home.
This photo was taken while we were canoeing near our home. | Source

These watersnakes are found throughout the Southeastern United States. The Broad-banded Watersnake is the only Banded Watersnake to occupy Louisiana. Broad-banded Watersnakes are active all year round in the warmer parts of Louisiana. During the winter and cold periods, they hibernate in animal burrows near water, as well as in muskrat and beaver lodges, shoreline vegetation and fallen logs.

During warm weather they retreat to these same places when threatened. They are active both day and night during summer. On cool, sunny days they can be seen basking on overhanging limbs along streams, rivers, ponds and other bodies of water.

Snake's Breakfast

Predator vs Prey
Predator vs Prey | Source

Broad-banded Diet


Broad-banded Watersnakes eat many aquatic animals including fish and amphibians. Prey is swallowed whole while still alive. Fish are swallowed head first, while most frogs such as the immature bronze frog below are swallowed rear first.

Young Bronze Frog

Frogs such as this young bronze are a favorite prey of water snakes.
Frogs such as this young bronze are a favorite prey of water snakes. | Source

A great video showing identification tips and information about this water snake.

Reproduction

Broad-banded Watersnakes are live bearers. They usually mate in the spring and give birth to live young from midsummer to fall. Litters of young range from 6 to 80, but normally about 20-25 are born at one time. In early spring it is common for several males to congregate in shallow water habitats to mate with receptive females.

Eating a Catfish

A large specimen feeds on a catfish in an Alabama river.
A large specimen feeds on a catfish in an Alabama river. | Source

Defense, Predators and Conservation

There are many predators that feed on Broad-banded water snakes. Cottonmouths, great blue herons and alligators are known to prey on these snakes. When threatened, a banded watersnake will always try to escape, but if this is not possible, and it is captured it will twist around, try to bite its captor and release a musky smelling odor.

Conservation

Unfortunately, many harmless Broad-banded Watersnakes are killed by fisherman, campers and other outdoors men because they are mistaken for poisonous Cottonmouths (because they live near water) or Copperheads (because of their banded pattern and color). Another threat occurs because of their tendency to cross busy highways near their wetland habitats.

 Reference: Gibbons and Dorcas, Snakes of the Southeast

Snakes of the Southeast (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)
Snakes of the Southeast (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)

One of the best guides for snakes of the southeastern U.S. and my go-to for identification and information. The photos and descriptions are excellent and the background information is enlightening.

 

Water Snake Poll

How good are you at distinguishing between venomous Cottonmouths and the many non-venomous water snakes?

See results

Kid Catches Baby Broad-banded Snake

© 2009 Yvonne L B

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    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      7 years ago from Covington, LA

      @Cheap-Divorce: Thanks for commenting. I agree 100%. I have always loved animals, but was taught to be wary of snakes. My husband was like you, so he taught me how to identify and handle them. Though I don't pick up the cottonmouths by hand like he did, I use a grabber to move them to another area.

    • profile image

      Cheap-Divorce 

      7 years ago

      It's a pity that these beautiful water snakes are mistaken for Copperheads and needlessly killed. Frankly, I don't agree with killing any snake as I am a snake fanatic and have been since I was about 6 years old.

      Most peoples fear of snakes is derived from ignorance and I've found that a lot of people change their outlook and are even quite happy to hold harmless species once a few misconceptions, in particular 'snakes are slimy', have been cleared up.

    • gmarlett lm profile image

      gmarlett lm 

      10 years ago

      Very nice lens - good job! 5 stars

    • Sarunas profile image

      Sarunas 

      10 years ago

      Great lens :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      You put a lot of work into this lens, its very informative. Well done.

      Thanks.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      With all these snakes running around in the woods I am feeling a little leery but I'm sure the others will be delighted to see them on our Walk in the Woods. Thank you for adding this lens to the group.

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