Brown Water Snake

Brown Water Snake
brown water snake
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Natricinae
Genus: Nerodia
Species: N. taxispilota
Binomial name
Nerodia taxispilota
(Holbrook, 1842)

Tropidonotus taxispilotus Holbrook, 1842
Natrix taxispilota Cope, 1889

The brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota) is a large species of Natricine snake found in the southeast United States.

Lycodonomorphus rufulus is sometimes also called the brown water snake, but L. rufulus is found in South Africa.


Common Names

Brown water snake, water-pilot[1], aspic, false moccasin, great water snake, pied water snake, southern water snake, water rattle, water rattler.[2].

Geographic Range

Found in lower coastal regions from southeastern Virginia, through the Carolinas and Georgia, to Northern and western Florida (Gulf Coast), then west through Alabama and Mississippi, to Louisiana, normally from sea level to 500 ft. (150 m) elevation.[3]


The brown water snake is very heavy-bodied, and its neck is distinctly narrower than its head. Dorsally it is brown or rusty brown with a row of about 25 black or dark brown square blotches down its back. Smaller similar blotches alternate on the sides. Ventrally it is yellow heavily marked with black or dark brown[4]. Dorsal scales are in 27-33 rows (more than any other North American water snake), and it has 2-4 anterior temporals (usually 1 in others)[5]. Adults measure 30-60 in. (76-152 cm) in total length; record 69 in. (175 cm)[6].


It is found in swamps and streams and is often mistaken for a venomous snake.


Nerodia taxispilota is ovoviviparous. Mating takes place in the spring on land or on tree branches. On average adult females are larger than adult males. The young are born alive, usually in August, in broods of 14-58, more commonly 30-40. The newborns are 7-10¾ in. (18-27 cm) long, with males longer than females, opposite of adults.[7]


Holbrook, J.E. 1842. North American Herpetology; or, a Description of the Reptiles Inhabiting the United States, Vol. IV. Dobson. Philadelphia. Plate VIII & pp. 35-36.

  1. ^ Stejneger, L. and Barbour, T. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles.Harvard University Press. Cambridge.
  2. ^ Wright, A.H. and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London.
  3. ^ Wright, A.H. and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London.
  4. ^ Schmidt, K.P. and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York.
  5. ^ Smith, H.M. and E.D. Brodie, Jr. 1982. A Guide to Field Identification Reptiles of North America. Golden Press. New York.
  6. ^ Conant, Roger. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston.
  7. ^ Wright, A.H. and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London.

Featured Herp: Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota)

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