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Brown water snake

Brown water snake
Nerodia taxispilota in West Palm Beach, Florida
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Nerodia
N. taxispilota
Binomial name
Nerodia taxispilota
(Holbrook, 1842)

The brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota) is a large species of nonvenomous natricine snake endemic to the southeastern United States. This snake is often one of the most abundant species of snakes found in rivers and streams of the southeastern United States, yet many aspects of its natural history is poorly known. Due to abundance and distribution throughout its biological range, this species could be used to investigate anthropogenic impacts on aquatic ecosystems by studying their movements.[2]

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

Common names

Its common names include brown water snake, water-pilot,[3] aspic, false moccasin, great water snake, pied water snake, southern water snake, and water rattle.[4]

Geographic range

N. taxispilota is found in lower coastal regions from southeastern Virginia, through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to northern and western Florida (Gulf Coast), then west through Missouri, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana, normally from sea level to 500 ft. (150 m) elevation.[4]


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.[5] Dorsal scales are in 27-33 rows (more than any other North American water snake), and it has two to four anterior temporals (usually one in others).[6] Adults measure 30–60 in. (76–152 cm) in total length; record 69 in. (175 cm).[7]


N. taxispilota is found in swamps and streams and is often mistaken for a moccasin. N. taxispilota are widely distributed in the coastal and piedmont regions of the Southeastern United States. More commonly found in flowing water such as rivers, canals, and black water cypress creeks N. taxispilota can also be found in large water reservoirs and lakes. Their preference of a pescatarian diet keeps them from living in ephemeral wetlands.


Birds like this great blue heron are among the snake's predators

N. 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.[4]

brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota)


  1. ^ Hammerson, G.A. (2007). "Nerodia taxispilota". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2007: e.T63857A12722712. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63857A12722712.en. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  2. ^ Mills, Mark, S.; Hudson, Chris, J.; Berna, Howard, J. (1995). "Spatial Ecology and Movements of the Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota)". Herpetologica. 51 (4): 412–23. JSTOR 3892767 – via JSTOR.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Stejneger, L., and T. Barbour (1917). A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Natrix taxispilota, p. 97).
  4. ^ a b c Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Assosciates, a division of Cornell University Press. 1,105 pp. (in 2 volumes) (Natrix taxispilota, pp. 544-547, Figure 162, Map 41).
  5. ^ Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Natrix taxispilota, pp. 213-215 + Plate 23, Center, on p. 343.)
  6. ^ Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie Jr. (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3 (paperback) (Nerodia taxispilota, pp. 154-155).
  7. ^ Conant, Roger (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 429 pp. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback) (Natrix taxispilota, p. 141 + Plate 21 + Map 107).

Mark S. Mills, Chris J. Hudson, & Berna, H. J. (1995). Spatial Ecology and Movements of the Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota). Herpetologica, 51(4), 412–423.

Further reading

  • Conant, R., and W. Bridges (1939). What Snake Is That? A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (with 108 drawings by Edmond Malnate). New York and London: D. Appleton-Century. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32. (Natrix taxispilota, pp. 106–107 + Plate 20, Figure 58).
  • Morris, P.A. (1948). Boy's Book of Snakes: How to Recognize and Understand Them. A volume of the Humanizing Science Series, edited by Jacques Cattell. New York: Ronald Press. viii + 185 pp. ("The Brown Water Snake", pp. 84–85, 180).
  • Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp., 47 plates, 207 figures. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Nerodia taxispilota, pp. 420–422, Figure 191 + Plate 41).
  • Holbrook, J.E. (1842). North American Herpetology; or, a Description of the Reptiles Inhabiting the United States, Vol. IV. Philadelphia: J. Dobson. 138 pp. (Tropidonotus taxispilotus, new species, pp. 35–36 & Plate VIII).
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Brown water snake
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