Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Northern water snakes are one of the most common large snakes in Connecticut. They are often confused
with other species such as the venomous water moccasin or copperhead. The variable outward appearance of this water snake is not helpful in identifying the species from afar. Most adults have a darker color and are often coated with silt to help them bask and soak up the sun or aid them in hiding. When swimming, the light and dark bands of the snake on the rippled surface of the water may obscure the snake’s shape, so it is not clearly recognizable to predators. 

In the New England Farmyard at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, visit our Connecticut Reptile House, where you will find a variety of reptiles found throughout the state, including the northern water snake.


The northern water snake is very stout and is about 30-40 inches long. Varying in color and pattern, they are usually seen in tan or brown with dark bands on the backs and sides. Their bellies are often cream colored in patterns, but may come in other variations such as orange or yellow. When handled, these snakes will sometimes release a musky smelling substance.


Almost always found in or next to water. They prefer weak currents but can swim just as easily in a swift current. They are active during the day and night, and have been seen basking near their water source.


Found throughout the northeastern United States as far south as the Carolinas and as far west as Colorado.


Small fish, frogs, toads, and salamanders.

Life Span: 

Up to 10 years in captivity.

Family Life: 

Males are able to reproduce after approx. 21 months. Females, however, do not reach sexual maturity until their third year. Gestation can last from 3-5 months. Unlike many snakes, Northern water snakes are live-bearers, meaning they do not lay eggs. A female may give birth to as many as 60 young at a time, depending on her size. Offspring are usually born between August and October and are on their own after birth.