PLAIN-BELLIED WATERSNAKE
Nerodia erythrogaster
(Forster 1771)


nĕr-ō-dē-ŭh — ĭh-rĭth-rŭh-găs-tĕr




An adult Plain-bellied Watersnake from Miami County. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A juvenile Plain-bellied Watersnake (left) and a juvenile Common Watersnake (right) from Crawford County. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A juvenile Plain-bellied Watersnake from Elk County. © Jennifer Brothers.
An adult from Butler County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

Description:
Harmless. Strongly keeled scales; uniform cream or yellowish belly with indistinct dark shading on edges of scales; underside of tail uniform cream or yellowish; head, body and tail either a uniform dark gray, olive or brown (old adults) or with 30–40 blotches of similar color separated by very indistinct light bands (young adults). 
The young are strikingly marked with dark brown blotches (seldom bands) separated by light bands. The space between the later blotches are often reddish. The belly often has thin dark marking along the posterior edges of the scutes, especially toward the edges.
Adults normally grow 760-1,220 mm (30-48 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 203662) from Pratt County with TL of 1,415 mm (55½ inches) collected by Tom Dillenbeck on 9 March 1985; maximum length throughout range: 62 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).


Distribution:
Found in streams, rivers, and impoundments south and east of a line from Seward County in the southwest to Doniphan County in the northeast. Isolated records are known from Saline County and field is needed along the Smoky Hill and Kansas rivers to determine if the lack of specimens in this represent a distributional gap.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 388 Total Records 
  • 327 Museum Vouchers 
  • 61 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (22); Anderson (7); Atchison (1); Barber (10); Bourbon (12); Butler (3); Chase (14); Chautauqua (3); Cherokee (20); Clark (10); Comanche (8); Cowley (10); Crawford (12); Doniphan (25); Douglas (5); Elk (3); Ellsworth (1); Ford (4); Franklin (14); Geary (1); Greenwood (9); Harper (13); Harvey (1); Kingman (3); Kiowa (6); Labette (5); Linn (10); Lyon (4); Meade (9); Miami (31); Montgomery (20); Morris (1); Neosho (10); Osage (4); Ottawa (1); Pratt (10); Reno (2); Riley (2); Saline (4); Sedgwick (1); Seward (28); Shawnee (4); Stafford (1); Sumner (1); Unknown (3); Washington (1); Wilson (9); Woodson (9);

Natural History:
Inhabits swamps, marshes, ponds and slow-moving portions of streams; least aquatic of Kansas water snakes. Active from March to October. During the day, basks near water on driftwood, low-hanging branches, stumps or brush. At night, forages for food. Litters vary from 4-30 young born in late July, August and September. Adults feed on frogs; young prefer small fishes.
Mates in May and June. Litters vary from 4-30 young born in late August and September. Newborn are 20-28 cm TL. This species bears live young (ovoviviparous), like other North American water snakes and Garter snakes.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Remarks:
Burt (1935) reported that Mr. Cornelius Rogers found this snake feeding on Plains Leopard Frogs (Rana blairi) in Barber County, Kansas, on 7 April 1934.

Bibliography:
1875 Cope, Edward D. Check-list of North American Batrachia and Reptilia; with a systematic list of the higher groups, and an essay on geographical distribution. Based on the specimens contained in the U.S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 1():1-104
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1911 Hurter, Julius. Herpetology of Missouri. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 20(5):59-274
1914 Dyche, Lewis L. Enemies of fish. Pages 145-158 in Ponds, Pond Fish and Pond Fish Culture State Department Fish and Game Bulletin No. 1, Kansas State Printing Office, Topeka. pp.
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Dolman, Katherine. Studies of Kansas Water Snakes. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 69pp.
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts. pp.
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1990 McCranie, James P. Nerodia erythrogaster. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (500):1-8
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2000 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):6-8
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Gubanyi, James E.. Osage County herp count I. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2005 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2005 fall field trip [to Crawford County]. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (16):19-21
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
Account Last Updated:
9/16/2019 11:20:11 AM


Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University