Northern Water Snake (2 of 2)

"The little water snake was doing some hunting along a little marshy area beside the dam. He had his head behind some grass clumps and I could not see it, and since copperheads can be marked very similarly I felt it would be a wiser choice to see his head. So I used my walking stick to gently prod him and let me tell you, he was completely unimpressed! He coiled immediately and of all things, he shook his tail the same way a Rattler would do, and started making short lunging head thrusts at the stick. He never once took his eyes off me as I walked around him, and with every step I took, he would lunge his head at me as a warning. I am pretty sure that the hikers who passed by thought I was rather nuts because I was laughing at his actions."
--Dee Puett, Photographer


  1. He's probably saved himself more times than any of us can count by pretending to be something more viscous than he is. "Puff up REAL big, they hate that. . ." - Ferngully

  2. This snake actually is not a northern water snake--though a spectacular animal and one I don't get to see in the wild where I live. He looks to be a prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) very similar to the Eastern milksnake of NYS and New England in looks but with narrow saddles where the milksnake has circular ones. He was probably hunting frogs, garter snakes or baby water snakes if he was found near water. The "fake rattler" display is a classic defense practiced by kings, rats and bullsnakes, among others. Kings, like the one in this photo, have smooth, shiny scales; water snakes have keeled (rough) scales.

    It's very rare to encounter these snakes out and about by daylight: they're secretive, semi-nocturnal burrowers. Congratulations on a great encounter with some awesome pics!

    1. Thank you for the information! I thought his protective stance was a little odd, I had never observed the 'rattling' in my other encounters with water snakes, normally when I encounter them they will study me for a moment then move on. It is remarkable and one of the things I find most interesting about snakes that so many different species can look so very much alike. (Dee)

  3. I remember being surprised when I first saw a harmless colubrid rattle its tail, but it was in captivity :>

    This snake looks a lot like the Mexican corn snake that is the most common species in my state. :D Beautiful animals and pics!

  4. Guys... This is most definitely not a northern water snake and certainly not a rat snake or milk snake either. This is Lampropeltis Calligaster- "Prairie kingsnake". Go ahead. look it up you will see for yourself.


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