Plain-bellied Watersnake

Nerodia erythrogaster

Description

Plain-bellied Watersnakes, also known as Yellow-bellied Watersnakes, are commonly observed snakes found in large bodies of water throughout the state of Mississippi (excluding extreme northeast). Habitat examples are swamps, lakes, rivers, ponds, and ditches. Labial scales are strongly barred, and the yellowish belly can usually be seen from a view to the side. Belly is plain and unmarked. Scales are strongly keeled, as they are in all Nerodia. Adults may reach lengths of up to 4 feet (Powell et al., 2016). They are harmless. They primarily eat fish. 

Young Plain-bellied Watersnake from a roadside ditch, Forrest Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Adults with a nearly patternless back, and a plain belly that may be red, orange, or yellow (most commonly yellow in MS)
  • Juveniles more boldly patterned with dorsal blotching
Range

Habitat

Bodies of water from rivers, to lakes, to swamps, to ditches

Behavior

Highly aquatic, rarely seen far away from water bodies

Diet

Fish eater

Juvenile, St. Martin Par. (LA)
Subadult retaining blotchy pattern of young, Acadia Par. (LA)
Closeup of head (note labial barring that differentiates it easily from the Cottonmouth)