Nerodia sipedon
(Linnaeus 1758)

nĕr-ō-dē-ŭh — sĭ-pē-dŏn

An adult from Stafford County. © Edward Arthur.
An sub-adult Common Watersnake from Barton County. © Maci Loughrea.
A juvenile Plain-bellied Watersnake (left) and a juvenile Common Watersnake (right) from Crawford County. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
Adult Common Watersnake from Sedgwick County.  © Mike Everhart?.
An adult Common Watersnake from Pottawatomie County. Image © Jacob Basler.
An adult Common Watersnake. By Nick Abt.
Adult from Big Creek, in Ellis County. Image © Raymond Hillegas.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

Harmless. Strongly keeled scales with a divided anal scale. The belly is cream to gray and marked with profuse dark brown, orange, yellow, red and gray half-moon blotches and speckles; dark brown complete bands on the front part of the body and alternating rows of brown, bright red, or gray blotches on the back and sides of the rear portion of the body; old adults are uniform brown or dark gray. The young have a more contrasting pattern than adults and are typically banded (not blotched) anteriorly.
Adult females tend to be larger than adult males; adult males have longer tails than females. 

Adults attain 560-1,067 mm (22-42 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: sex undetermined (KU 288637) from Jackson County with TL of 1,208 mm (47½ inches) collected by James Gubanyi on 21 October 1998; maximum length throughout range : 59 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998); maximum weight for Kansas specimen: 480 grams (1 pound, 1 ounce).

Largely confined to the riparian areas in the western half of Kansas. In the east, it is commonly found in ponds and rocky streams and rivers, especially. It is found along the Arkansas River in eastern Colorado.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,546 Total Records 
  • 1,485 Museum Vouchers 
  • 61 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (15); Anderson (46); Atchison (5); Barber (5); Barton (3); Bourbon (24); Brown (33); Butler (11); Chase (502); Chautauqua (3); Cherokee (18); Cheyenne (1); Clay (1); Cloud (2); Coffey (1); Comanche (1); Cowley (41); Crawford (18); Dickinson (6); Doniphan (43); Douglas (186); Elk (23); Ellis (43); Ellsworth (3); Finney (2); Ford (3); Franklin (53); Geary (7); Gove (1); Graham (1); Gray (2); Greenwood (45); Hamilton (8); Harvey (3); Hodgeman (3); Jackson (3); Jefferson (11); Johnson (19); Kingman (3); Kiowa (6); Labette (4); Leavenworth (5); Linn (18); Lyon (41); Marion (6); Marshall (6); McPherson (13); Miami (18); Mitchell (1); Montgomery (12); Morris (4); Nemaha (3); Neosho (4); Ness (1); Norton (3); Osage (28); Ottawa (3); Pawnee (1); Pottawatomie (7); Pratt (5); Reno (1); Riley (69); Rooks (3); Russell (7); Saline (8); Scott (5); Sedgwick (1); Shawnee (9); Sheridan (2); Stafford (2); Sumner (1); Trego (11); Unknown (13); Wabaunsee (5); Washington (5); Wilson (7); Woodson (6); Wyandotte (4);

Natural History:
Active from March to November; it becomes nocturnal in the summer. Spends much of its time basking in the sun on branches and logs which overhang water; discovered easily by looking under rocks along streams. Six to 66 young per litter, born in August or September. Eats small fishes, plus some frogs and toads.
Common Watersnakes are live-bearers and breed April June. They primarily feed on amphibians and fish and are often seen basking on banks of rivers or ponds or on branches overhanging the water.
Rundquist and Collins (1977) reported an adult Mudpuppy (KU 174546) discovered while being consumed by a Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) in a shallow area of Shoal Creek at Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County.
Riedle (1998) examined the stomach contents of three Common Watersnakes from Montgomery County. One adult snake, estimated to be 700 mm TL, was observed swallowing a 120 mm Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). A juvenile snake, approximately 207 mm TL, contained an adult Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans), and another juvenile, approximately 210 mm TL, contained a small sunfish (Lepomis sp.), which was 35 mm in length.

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.
First reported in Kansas by Hallowell (1856). The earliest existing specimen is from 1879 (MCZ 5913).

1758 Linné, Carl von (=Linneaus). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis 10th Edition, Volume 1, L. Salvius, Stockholm. iv + 826pp.
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1877 Mozley, Annie E List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State Univeristy Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1900 Cope, Edward D. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Pages 153-1270 in Report of the U. S. National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1898 , Washington, D. C. pp.
1901 Brown, Arthur Erwin. A review of the genera and species of American snakes, north of Mexico. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 53(1):10-110
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1907 Ditmars, Raymond L. The Reptile Book; A comprehensive, Popularised Work on the Structure and Habits of the Turtles, Tortoises, Crocodilians, Lizards and Snakes which Inhabit the United States and Northern Mexico. Doubleday, Pae, and Company, New York. 472pp.
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.
1917 Wooster, Lyman D. Nature Study Bulletin Kansas State Printing Plant, Topeka, Kansas.. 63pp.
1925 Linsdale, Jean M. Land Vertebrates of a Limited Area in Eastern Kansas. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 312pp.
1927 Linsdale, Jean M. Amphibians and reptiles of Doniphan County, Kansas. Copeia 1927(164):75-81
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
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
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 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
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
1935 Dunn, Emmet R. and Robert Allen. The redbellied watersnake in Pennsylvania. Copeia 1935(4):180-181
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
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
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
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.
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1977 Rundquist, Eric M. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians of Cherokee County, Kansas. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 12pp.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1986 Terry, P. A. Biological survey of the KS segments of Spring River and Shoal Creek. Part 1. Field Survey. Draft. Kansas Fish and Game, Pratt, Kansas. 67pp.
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Nerodia sipedon. Geographic distribution. Herpetological Review 23():91
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Observations on Kansas amphibians and reptiles Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):13-15
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
1998 Riedle, J. Darren. Water snake feeding records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (111):16
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
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
2000 Van Doren, Mark D. and Curtis J. Schmidt. A herpetological survey of the Fort Larned National Historic Site, Pawnee County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):8-11
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Miller, Larry L. Shawnee County herp count. 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
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2003 Freeman, Craig C. A natural areas inventory of the Ft. Leavenworth Military Reservation, Leavenworth County, Kansas. II. Open-file Report No. 117. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 199pp.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2003 fall field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (8):14-15
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.
2012 Walley, Harlan D., R. B. King, J. M. Ray, and T. L. Wusterbarth. Nerodia sipedon. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (899):1-58
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
2017 Huggins, Donald, Jude Kastens, Debbie Baker, and Craig Freeman Conversion of existing farm ponds to wetlands in agricultural landscapes for mitigation, land use treatment and conservation with a perspective toward climate change. Kansas Biological Survey Report No. 189. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 91pp.
Account Last Updated:
7/8/2019 7:54:21 AM

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