Broad-Banded Watersnake of Louisiana
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.
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
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
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.
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
A great video showing identification tips and information about this water snake.
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
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.
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
Water Snake Poll
How good are you at distinguishing between venomous Cottonmouths and the many non-venomous water snakes?
Kid Catches Baby Broad-banded Snake
More Louisiana Snakes
- Snakes of Louisiana
Snakes are an important link in the food chain. Here you will find many photos of venomous and non-venomous Louisiana snakes as well as information and links to most.
© 2009 Yvonne L B