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Know the Northern Water Snake

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With summer in full swing, many of us are spending as much time as possible enjoying recreational activities on regional waters. This increases the likelihood that we might encounter one of the Upper Delaware River Valley’s common reptiles, the Northern Water Snake. True to its name, this snake makes its home in and around lakes, ponds, bogs, rivers and streams.

Reaching a length ranging from 24 to 50 inches, this large and impressive snake can be recognized by its round pupil and the reddish brown or brownish black coloration of its skin. Males are typically smaller than females. Dark bands and blotches alternate down the body, and the belly can be white, yellow or gray with reddish brown or black crescent-shaped spots.

The Northern Water Snake is non-venomous and will usually flee from confrontation. If threatened, it may flatten its head and strike repeatedly, leaving a wound that can bleed profusely due to an anticoagulant in the snake’s saliva. Keep your distance and enjoy observing this stunning species in its habitat.

Visit www.fishandboat.com/Resource/AmphibiansandReptiles/Documents/04northern.pdf for an interesting piece on how our perceptions of the Northern Water Snake’s historical role in PA have changed over time.

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