Brown water snake

Brown water snake

Are Brown water snake NON-VENOMOUS?

The brown water snake, also known as the brown tree snake, is one of the most venomous snakes in Australia. Its bite causes pain, swelling and numbness. If you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately.

Basic description

The Brown Water snake belongs to the family Colubridae and genus Eumeces. This snake occurs throughout much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. In some areas it is widespread while in others it is rare.

Brown Waters nakes are medium sized constrictors that grow up to 60 inches long (1.5 m). They are stout bodied snakes with a short tail. Their bodies are dark tan above with broad black crossbars running across the midline of the back. A row of small spots runs along each side of the body, beginning just behind the eye and continuing around the snout. There is no patterning on the underside of the body.

Both sexes attain maturity at 2–3 years old. Females lay eggs once every spring. Eggs hatch in 3–4 weeks. Hatchlings measure about 4 inches (10 cm) in total length; they are olive green with faint yellow stripes.

As with most snakes, Brown Water snakes feed primarily on rodents. Unlike many other colubrids, however, Brown Watersnakes do not use venom. Instead, they rely on constriction to subdue prey.

Range in Florida

Brown watersnakes are native to the Atlantic coast of North America. They live in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes and swamps. Their range extends from Canada down into Mexico. In Florida, brown watersnakes are found from Jacksonville south to Key West. There are no records of the species being found in the Florida Keys.

Assessment of risk to people and pets

Brown Watersnake bites usually happen when someone tries to handle the snake without being aware of it. They are not aggressive and avoid contact with people and pets, but they will bite if handled roughly. Most bites occur when the snake is deliberately molested. There have been no reported deaths due to brown watersnake bites.

The most serious threat posed by these snakes is their potential to transmit disease. A brown watersnake can carry several different diseases including rabies virus, salmonella, giardia, echinococcosis, and toxoplasmosis.

Comparison with other species

The venomous snakes known as cottonmouths are actually members of the water snake family (Colubridae). They are most closely related to the coral snake (Micrurus fulvius), although they are not considered true coral snakes because they lack the distinctive dorsal patterning characteristic of those snakes. This group includes many harmless species such as the gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) and the king snake (Lampropeltis getula).

Cottonmouths are distinguished from watersnakes (Enhydrinae) by having a single row of enlarged scales along each side of the neck, rather than the double rows present in watersnakes. Additionally, cottonmouths have a pair of large fangs located near the front of the upper jaw, whereas watersnakes possess smaller teeth closer to the rear of the mouth.

Both groups of snakes are easily recognized by their appearance; however, there are some subtle differences that make it possible to distinguish one type from the other. For example, cottonmouths have vertical elliptical pupils, whereas watersnake pupils are round. In addition, cottonmouths have no facial pits between the nostrils and the eyes, whereas watersnakes sometimes have small pits. Finally, cottonmouths have fewer scale rows on the underside of the tail than watersnakes.

Detailed Description

A medium sized snake, adults average around 60-80 inches (152-203 cm) in total length; rarely exceeding 120 inches (305 cm). Females tend to be slightly smaller than males. They are usually dark greyish-brown above and lighter underneath, often with a few small black spots or blotches scattered over the upper surface. Some individuals exhibit a variety of color patterns, including reddish-orange, yellow, white, and even gray. In some cases, the patterning is very faint and difficult to see. A few specimens show no pattern whatsoever.

The tail is thick, tapering, and cylindrical, ending bluntly in a rounded tip. There are typically 23-32 ventral scale rows at midbody, although occasionally fewer or up to 38 rows occur. Ventrals are smooth except for tiny granules along the posterior edge of each scale row. The subcaudals are usually paired, although sometimes single or double pairs are present.

The head is distinctly separated from the neck, and is much larger than it is long. Its snout is short and blunt, and the eyes are large and protruding. The mouth is wide and covered with numerous small teeth. The nostrils are located behind the eyes, just inside the spiracle. Teeth are arranged in four longitudinal rows across the roof of the mouth.

Adults are generally slender bodied, although one specimen measured 61.2 inches (155cm) in total length. This individual had a moderately broad head relative to the rest of its body, and the longest tail ever recorded for a Brown Water snake.

Brown Water snakes are found throughout North America, extending south into Mexico, Central America, and South America. Although most populations are restricted to the southeastern United States, a few isolated populations exist further west and north. Populations in the southern part of their range are more abundant than those in the northern portion.

Brown Water snake habitat includes marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, ditches, culverts, road cuts, irrigation channels, drainage pipes, and similar areas where water flows freely. They prefer slow moving waters, such as still pools, sluggish creeks, and quiet stretches of river. They avoid stagnant, brackish, and turbid bodies of water.

Habitat selection varies greatly among different species within the genus, and even within the same population. For example, while many specimens inhabit open wetlands, others favor dense vegetation near standing water. One study showed that Brown Water snakes preferred habitats with high levels of vegetation cover, whereas another indicated that they avoided heavily vegetated areas.


Brown Watersnakes are often confused with water snakes because of their similar appearance. They look like small greenish brown lizards with long tails. Brown Water snake habitat varies greatly depending upon region. This species prefers slow-moving bodies of water such as streams, lakes, and marshes. These creatures live near the bottom of the water column and feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates. Their diet includes crayfish, worms, insects, frogs, fish, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks, and even other reptiles. Brown Water snakes are most active during dusk and dawn hours.


Brown Water snakes are found throughout much of North America. They feed primarily on fish, frogs, salamanders, crayfish and small mammals such as mice and shrews. These snakes are often encountered swimming near ponds, lakes and streams. Although they are shy creatures, they are generally quite docile and do not pose a threat to humans. This species is most commonly seen during late spring and summer months.

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