Yellow-bellied water snake
Jul 06, 2019
The yellow-bellied water snake, Nerodia erythrogaster, is a common water snake on the property.
They are stout snakes with a gray to blueish back and a plain yellow to pale orange unmarked belly. the Nerodia erythrogaster flavigatser, as the Latin name says it, has a yellow plain belly and is one of the three sub-species found in the South East with the red-bellied to the East and the Blotched in a tiny coastal part of Louisiana.
They can turn up in or around any aquatic habitat thanks to their propensity to travel long distance over land. They are associated with rivers and floodplains. In Hudsonville they travel from pond to pond and into the marsh by the Cold Water river head.
They hibernate during the coldest part of the year, but become active earlier than other water snakes in Spring. The picture above was taken on a warm February day of 2018 on the banks of one of our pond. As this snake has a dead right eye, one can approach it very close. It is not uncommon to see the yellow-bellied water snakes basking on vegetation along the ponds or on the levees, swimming or even traveling overland and across our yard. As they are more likely to be found over land than any other water snakes, it is believed that their diet is made of a high proportion of amphibians (frogs and toads). The picture below shows one snake I picked up in the yard to protect it from the dogs. One of its first reaction was to regurgitate its meal, made of a frog. This reaction is pretty common and I am almost systematically granted with a frog as I relocate a yellow-bellied water snake. As out house is surrounded by several ponds and a wet prairie, they often roam by the house or the barns for toads or frogs and I have to relocate one or two a year.
The pictures below shows a removal from the house and how it coiled around my arm as I took it to a distant pond. (Water snakes are not constrictor snakes though). When caught, they release a musk, while trying to bite. This very snake came back within 10 days, still same dead eye snake, intending this time to live in the house.
They rather actively forage for prey but have been known to sit in the water open mouthed, waiting for a prey to come near. Like other water snakes they swallow their prey and do not constrict it. The two pictures display two different snakes, one by a pond and the other on a path in the woods.
Mating occurs from April till mid-June, females giving birth to an average of 18 live young snakes in August or September.
They fall prey of terrestrial predators like dogs, hawks, but also cotton mouths, king snakes, egrets, baths.
The saga with the ‘dead eye’ water snake is not over, it keeps ongoing in 2019. Now it lives in the workshop.