In a past column I featured the now extirpated from Indiana mud snake. I also said in that column that while we do have a few cottonmouths in Indiana I have never had one brought to me to identify. I also related I would feature what other water snakes we do have in our state. Well here they are.
The most common water snake in Indiana is the banded water snake. There are two subspecies of the banned native to our state. They are the northern banded and the midland banded. These are the two most people come in contact with while out on or near water. They can be up to 40 or so inches in length and have a robust body.
They vary a lot in color and can be gray, brown, tan and even black in older snakes. The banded does have dark brown or reddish cross bands across its body while the midland also has bands that are more or less unbroken, but are lighter in color.
The northern banded water snake occurs in the northern half of Indiana while the midland is native to the southern section of our state. It is most common in the Wabash and White River watersheds and near the Ohio River.
There is an area in central Indiana where the two subspecies integrate and you may find snakes that resemble both subspecies. This makes identification rather difficult in this segment of Hoosierland. This is the water snake most often brought to me for identification.
They can be found in almost any aquatic habitat in Indiana. They can be seen swimming in the water along the banks of lakes or streams and on limbs hanging over water. The main food of these snakes is fish, most of which are not game fish. They can, however, be a pest around fish hatcheries.