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February 25, 2014

The water snakes of Indiana are varied and not uncommon


They will also consume frogs, toads and other aquatic creatures. In turn these water snakes are eaten by large fish such as bass, and by raccoon, herons, minks and even by big bullfrogs. While the banded water snakes are not venomous, they will flatten their head and strike out when disturbed. A bite from one of these snakes can be painful and will bleed for some time. These also are the snakes often call “water moccasins,” but are not cottonmouths.

Another Hoosier water snake often mistaken for a cottonmouth is the diamondback water snake. It is a large snake up to 63 inches in length and also is very robust. It is marked much like the banded snakes, but has a cream-colored belly with black markings and a faint diamond-shaped pattern on its back. Thus its name.

This is the southern species that only extends into the southwestern section of Indiana. Here it is found along the watersheds of the White and Wabash rivers in Knox, Daviess, Gibson, Posey, Vanderburg, Sullivan, Vigo, Clay, Warrick, and possibly Martin, Dubois and Spencer counties.

The diamondback also is a fish eater and also like bullfrogs. It is a very aggressive snake and its bite can be quite painful. This is another snake that is mistaken for a cottonmouth, but again it is not poisonous.

The queen snake is another of our water snakes and is found over a number of Hoosier counties. It is, however, rare or absent in the southwestern or south central segments of Hoosierland. It is a small snake less than two feet in length. It also is very slender with a yellow belly and a yellow stripe along its lower side. The back of the queen snake is brown in color.

A rare Hoosier water snake is the lovely copperbelly. Only found in a few locations in southwestern, southeastern and northeastern Indiana it is listed as endangered in our state. It is either black or dark brown above with a red or orange belly. It is one of our most colorful snakes and is given full protection in the Patoka River National Wildlife Area, sites along the Muscatatuck River, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, and in some nature preserves.

These are the snakes most often found in or near Hoosier waters. A few other snakes may on occasion be seen in water, but our true water snakes are indeed an interesting part of our Indiana natural heritage.

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