Diamond-back Water Snake
Reptile: Nerodia rhombifera
The Diamond-back (or backed) Water Snake is a long, heavy-bodied, tan to grayish brown non-venomous (non-poisonous) reptile with a pattern of dark brown to black chain like markings. The belly is yellow, but with dusky brown markings. As the name implies it lives in slow moving waters and is found all over Louisiana.
These beautiful snakes eat fish, frogs, toads, eels and very few birds. Many of these attractive non-venomous reptiles are killed by uninformed humans who mistake them for the venomous Cottonmouth or Copperhead snake.
You will find information about and photographs (taken by the author) of this large, brown reptile on this page, including some action shots of it hunting in the water.
Photos on this page copyright Y.L. Bordelon aka naturegirl7, All rights reserved
Diamondbacked Water Snakes in our Habitat
Since our wildlife habitat is located along the Tchefuncte River, we often see many water snakes, but the largest and most interesting one that lives around the river is the Diamondback Water Snake. This snake can grow to 63 inches and we have several this size. They mate in the spring and have live young from early August to late October.
We have been lucky enough to photograph this attractive snake both in and out of the water. They like to bask in the sun on over hanging branches or cling to a submerged branch to lie in wait while hunting. Where we live, these skillful hunters eat primarily fish and we have observed one grab a 2 pound catfish and take it to the shore to eat it. The snake worked to try to swallow the fish for hours, until it finally gave up and tried for a perch.
Unfortunately, this beautiful, non-poisonous snake is sometimes killed because of its slightly triangular head, the untrained mistake it for the venomous Copperhead or Water Moccasin. The photos below (from "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana" by Harold A. Dundee and Douglas A Rossman) show the difference between the heads of the snakes.
A. Diamond-backed water snake, Nerodia rhombifera
C. Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix
D. Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus
The Diamondback Water Snake
is a beautifully patterned non-poisonous snake. The almost triangular shape of it's head can be deceiving to the novice and it is often confused with water moccasins. It's round eyes, lack of pits above the eyes and long, thinner tail distinguish it from the venomous Cottonmouth Moccasin.
Snake Identification Poll
How well can you recognize a non-venomous snake?
Diamond-back Water Snake Sunning on a Log
Since snakes are cold-blooded, they must take advantage of the sun to warm their bodies. That is why you will often see them stretched out on logs or curled in tree branches "sunning". We photographed this large Diamond-back Watersnake, near the Tchefuncte River, sunning on a tree that was downed during Hurricane Katrina.
To see a close up version of this magnificent snake visit Snake Pictures in Louisiana.
Here's what some readers have to say about water snakes:
Water Snakes are fascinating creatures!
Renaissance Woman: When I lived in Michigan, I enjoyed watching unsuspecting boaters get freaked out when the water snakes would swim towards them at the ramp (while they were standing in the water). The water snakes there were very aggressive.
dofseo: Nice collection ! its really very interesting.
heehaw lm: water snakes are indeed fascinating creatures. but beware, some are poisonous.
Tolovaj Publishing House: They seem very interesting.
budgetwater: Cool stuff!
promotional-coupons-codes: I love snakes and would love to have one
rio1: These are beautiful snakes and they get very large, but they are harmless.
KimGiancaterino: I prefer snakes to be in their natural habitats.
I try not to think about them.
Ahdilarum: Not danger, but scary
miauw99: I am sooo afraid with snakes.
Stacy Birch: I don't like snakes.
Philippians468: oh boy i am a little jittery about the fact that they can swim!
WhiteOak50: Okay, have to be honest here... ummm, I am not a snake person. (shrivers)
Diamond-back Watersnake "Fishing"
Some watersnakes hook their tails to a submerged branch and lie in wait for their prey. Here is a shot of a Diamond-back Water Snake "fishing" in the Tchefuncte River. We have observed Diamond-back's grabbing fish underwater many times. It looks strange, because, in most cases, you don't see the snake, you just see the fish as the snake whips it around in the water.
Fishing Photos - The Big One Got Away!Click thumbnail to view full-size
North American Watersnakes Book
If you'd enjoy learning more about the fascinating world of water snakes then this wonderful book from the Animal Natural History series is just what you need. It has good illustrations and excellent information.
Diamond-back Water Snake and Turtles PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Water Snake's Year
If your child is interested in reptiles, the book, A Water Snake's Year, by Doris Gove and Beverly Duncan (which takes you through the first year in the life of a water snake) may be of interest to you. Both you and your child will enjoy the illustrations and information.
This is a great video of a Diamond-back Water snake moving under water.
Diamondback Water Snake Underwater Video
© 2008 Yvonne L B