Monday, May 2, 2011

Common Water Snake - Nerodia Sipedon Sipedon

A non plant post today - unless you consider the fact the this Common Water Snake (also sometimes known as Northern Water Snake) is living in the old bathtub where I keep my potted waterlilies. Common Watersnakes are one of the most common snakes in Ohio. It will live in just about any permanent body of water. I can attest to this as I have had them living in the smallest of our ponds. Actually, you don't get much smaller pond than a bathtub.
Compared to a lot of the other snakes that we have on the farm, these are kind of short and fat. They are very fond of basking in the sun and can often be seen on rocks at the edge of a pond, or on a floating log or even on an overhanging branch. They seem a bit nervous to me, disappearing under the water just about as soon as they notice you. I'm surprised that this one allowed me to take its picture. I'm a big snake fan, have been since I was little, but these guys are not on my favorites list. I have 2 major problems with them. First, they are the reason that there are no longer any fish in any of our ponds. This is not just idle chatter. I have seen them eating my poor goldfish. The frog that lived in the bathtub with the waterlilies seems to be missing as well. He used to sing to me. In addition to fish and frogs, they will eat worms, crayfish, leeches, and small mammals and birds. The other thing I dislike about this particular snake is that they are just downright nasty. They seem to delight in attacking people. Hank was weeding around the edge of one of the larger ponds when one attacked and bit him. He didn't even know it was in the pond. Although I don't know about it from personal experience, I have read that they secrete an obnoxious, smelly substance from their musk glands if they are handled.
The color can vary from brown to red to grey to blackish. Its belly can be white, yellow or grey. In general the snake seems to darken as it ages.
Common Water Snakes mate in April and June and their young are born live in late summer and fall. These are not egg layers. As seems to befit these less than lovely creatures, their babies are on their own as soon as they are born, and no parental care is provided. They female can give birth to up to 30 young at a time.
We seem to have quite a few of these snakes around and I see them often, sunning at the edges of the ponds.

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