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Broad-Banded Watersnake of Louisiana

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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.

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.

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.

broad-banded-watersnake-louisiana

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

broad-banded-watersnake-louisiana

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Water Snake Poll

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

Drop Us a Line

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on January 31, 2012:

@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.

Cheap-Divorce on January 31, 2012:

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 on April 12, 2009:

Very nice lens - good job! 5 stars

Sarunas on April 10, 2009:

Great lens :)

anonymous on March 31, 2009:

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

Thanks.

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on March 30, 2009:

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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