Northern Water Snakes Bask Near Water

Jun 17, 2018

June 21 - June 27

Discover nature this first week of summer and watch for northern water snakes basking in the sun.

Snakes have generated more fear and misunderstanding than any other group of animals. And psychologists have proven that a fear of snakes is acquired. We are not born with it.

Once people learn some of the interesting facts about snakes and discover that most of them are harmless and beneficial, their aversion may diminish. With patience and understanding, almost anyone can overcome a dread of snakes and actually enjoy studying them. One thing is certain - even people with a well-developed fear of snakes are curious about them.

The northern watersnake, also called the banded watersnake, is Missouri's most common species of water snake and is found throughout the northern two-thirds of the state. A subspecies, the midland water snake, lives in the southern third of the state. A gray to reddish-brown snake with dark brown cross bands, its belly is cream-colored with numerous black and reddish half-moon markings. Scales along the back and sides are keeled and their length ranges from 24 to 42 inches.  Northern water snakes live in or near any aquatic habitat such as ponds, lakes, sloughs, streams, rivers and marshes. All snakes are carnivores. Water snakes eat fish, frogs, tadpoles, toads, and salamanders. 

While soaking in the sun on a log or rock, water snakes don’t like to be disturbed, so if you choose to observe them in the wild, do it from a distance. They might bite to defend themselves, though their preference is to flee danger whenever possible. Being a non-venomous snake, their bite is harmless. 

If you’re curious to find out more about snakes, you can visit your local Nature Center. The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center has several snakes on hand as well as naturalists to answer any questions you might have.

To keep track of current natural events like when you can see a watersnake basking in the sun, you can get your own natural events calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.