What kind of snake is this

Asked June 11, 2019, 11:01 AM EDT

I live on a lake in Orlando. This snake has been hanging around. Quite fat and about 3 feet long. I do not mind snakes but this one scared me because it had been hanging around by my back patio and I have two small dogs under ten pounds. My husband killed it, but we would like to know if it is venemous or not so we know in the future if we see another that looks like it. Neighbors and friends say it was either a hamless water snake or a moccasin. So we do not know. Thank you

Orange County Florida snake identification nerodia fasciata pictiventris florida watersnake

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is a Florida watersnake, scientific name (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). This is a subspecies of the southern banded watersnake, (Nerodia fasciata). This species is non-venomous. Typical length is approximately 3 feet, and maximum length can reach approximately 5 feet.

This subspecies is found in the extreme southeastern tip of Georgia and throughout Florida, except for the panhandle portion of the state. They occur in a variety of aquatic habitats, including streams, swamps, rivers, marshes, bayous, ponds, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

They feed primarily on amphibians and fish.

When threatened this species will first attempt to escape. If cornered, however, they flatten their head and body to make themselves appear larger. If you attempt to handle them, they will bite repeatedly and discharge large quantities of musk from anal glands. This species is often mistaken for the copperhead or cottonmouth, and needlessly killed.

Here's a link to the University of Florida Florida Museum's page for this species:

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-snakes/list/nerodia-fasciata-pictiventris/

Two excellent field guides that include Florida snakes are:

Gibbons, Whit and Mike Dorcas. (2015). Snakes of the Southeast. 2nd edition. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Gibbons, Whit. (2017). Snakes Of The Eastern United States. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

I hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.

Jim