red-bellied watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster)


This a large, solid brown, aquatic snake grows to lengths 30-48 in. (76-122 cm) in length. The belly is orange-red. There are no blotches, spots or other markings on the adult. The juvenile has brown blotches down the back with smaller blotches on the sides and an orange-red ground color. This species is the most terrestrial of the Nerodia and will wander hundreds of yards into dry forests during the summer. They usually rest directly on the ground. They are primarily diurnal, although they move overland at night, especially during and after warm rains. This species will bear up to 50 live young. The maximum known age is 8 years.


Most populations occur south of the James River, but there are 2 confirmed records for the lower York-James peninsula. It is common in certain areas of the Great Dismal Swamp. This species is found in river swamps choked with semiaquatic vegetation and characterized by bald cypress, red maple, and sweet gum. It may also be found in swamps, ditches, freshwater marshes, and low wet areas in all vegetative habitats. This snake is often seen lying on logs and vegetation in swampy habitats, but can also be found under litter and logs.


The primary food of this species is frogs and fish, but it will eat crayfish and salamanders.