PLAIN-BELLIED WATERSNAKE
Nerodia erythrogaster (Forster 1771)
nĕr-ō-dē-ŭh — ĭh-rĭth-rŭh-găs-tĕr


Conservation Status:

State: None

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S5 - Secure
NatureServe National: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Global: G5 - Secure
CITES: None

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 Plain-bellied Watersnake from Coffey County. © Kyla Buck.
An adult from Butler County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

Description:
Harmless. Strongly keeled scales; uniform cream or yellowish belly with indistinct dark shading toward the edges of scuts; the belly markings typically less prominent anteriorly; 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)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 397
    Records 
  • 335
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 62
    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); Barton (5); Bourbon (12); Butler (3); Chase (14); Chautauqua (3); Cherokee (21); Clark (10); Comanche (8); Cowley (10); Crawford (12); Doniphan (25); Douglas (5); Elk (3); Ellsworth (2); Ford (4); Franklin (14); Geary (1); Greenwood (9); Harper (13); Harvey (1); Johnson (1); Kingman (3); Kiowa (6); Labette (5); Linn (10); Lyon (4); Meade (9); Miami (31); Montgomery (21); 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.
Observation Type: (of recorded types)
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
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
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
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
1974 Karns, Daryl, Ray E. Ashton, Jr., and Thomas Swearingen. Illustrated Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas: An Identification Manual. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History Public Education Series(2):viii + 18
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.
1976 Grow, David. Large garter snake caught at zoo. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (12):8
1976 Grow, David. The KHS goes to Chetopa. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (13):2-3
1976 Miller, Larry L. KHS visits Elk County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (15):1-2
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Perry, Janice. KHS members achieve goal: Get Cottonmouth. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (21):3-4
1978 Curl, Richard L. Final Environmental Statement: Milford Lake Kansas operation and maintenance. US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. 158pp.
1978 Perry, Janice. KHS successful at Miami County State Lake. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (27):5
1978 Warner, M. and R. Wencel. Chikaskia River study held near Caldwell. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (25):15-16
1979 Gray, Peter and Eddie Stegall. A field trip to the Red Hills. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (29):6-8
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 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Report to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission on the status of three amphibians in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 57pp.
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1985. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (63):4
1988 Miller, Larry L. Harper County KHS field trip well attended. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (72):5-6
1989 Collins, Joseph T. First Kansas herp counts held in 1989. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (77):11-
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1990 McCranie, James P. Nerodia erythrogaster. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (500):1-8
1991 Capron, Marty. Unusual foraging behavior in water snakes (Nerodia) around drying pools in southcentral Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (84):14-15
1991 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1990. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (83):7-13
1991 Collins, Joseph T. Results of third Kansas herp count held during April-May 1991. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (85):9-13
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1992 Collins, Joseph T. Results of the fourth Kansas herp count held during April-May 1992. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (89):10-
1992 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the KHS 1992 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (90):4
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the fifth Kansas herp count held during April-June 1993 . Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (94):7-11
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Riedle, J. Daren. A survey of reptiles and amphibians at Montgomery County State Fishing Lake. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (98):11-13
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (97):5-14
1995 Anderson, Lewis, Mark Shaw, Jeff Blodig, and Tom Walker. Report to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks: Herps encountered during REmap project, summer 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (99):10-17
1995 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the seventh annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1995. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (101):11-17
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
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1996 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the eighth annual KHS herp counts Held 1 April-31 May 1996. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (104):6-17
1997 Collins, Joseph T. A report on the KHS fall field trip to the Marais des Cygnes wildlife refuges. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (110):2-3
1997 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the ninth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1997. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (108):12-17
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Gamble, Jerre Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hartford, Kansas. 91pp.
1998 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the tenth annual KHS herp counts for 1998, held 1 April-31 May. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (112):11-18
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the eleventh and twelfth annual KHS herpetofaunal counts for 1999-2000, held 1 April-31 May. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):11-16
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
2001 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the thirteenth annual KHS herp counts for 2001, held 1 April-30 June. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):13-16
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 Kingsbury, Bruce and Joanna Gibson. Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest. Publication of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Address not given. 152pp.
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
2003 Burr, Andrew. Coffey County herp count 2. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (7):7
2003 Collins, Joseph T. Douglas County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (7):8
2003 Platt, Dwight R. Lizards and snakes (Order Squamata) of Harvey County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):13-20
2003 Schmidt, Curtis J. Geographic distribution: Nerodia erythrogaster. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):8
2003 Suleiman, G. Fort Riley herpetofaunal count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):11-12
2003 Taggart, Travis W. KHS conducts first systematic road survey. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):11-12
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2003 KHS spring field trip to Wilson County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):2-5
2004 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians, turtles, and reptiles in Kansas for 2003. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (9):8-11
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 Schmidt, Curtis J. and Travis W. Taggart. Geographic distribution: Nerodia erythrogaster. Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):11
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.
2009 Murrow, Daniel G. KHS 2009 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (29):42769
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
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.
2010 Murrow, Daniel G. Kansas Herpetological Society spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (33):2-3
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Spring Field Trip to Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (38):2-4
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2013 Miller, Larry L. Wellington Lake Herpetological Survey. Collinsorum 2(1/2):12
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2012 Spring Field Trip to Bourbon County State Lake. Collinsorum 2(3/4):3
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2012 Summer Field Trip to Meade County State Park. Collinsorum 2(3/4):3
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Fall Field Trip to Butler County State Lake. Collinsorum 2(3/4):6
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Spring Field Trip to Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):4
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Summer Field Trip to Coldwater Lake, Comanche County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):5
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Recent scientific and standard English name changes effecting the Kansas herpetofauna. Collinsorum 3(2-4):9-10
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2014 KHS Fall Field Trip to Woodson County. Collinsorum 3(2-4):12
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2014 KHS Spring Field Trip to Barber County Collinsorum 3(2-4):11
2015 Taggart, Travis W. Summer Field Trip In The Harvey County Sandhills. Collinsorum 4(3):3
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Summer field trip to Caney River, Chautauqua County, Kansas. Collinsorum 5(2-3):4-5
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Spring 2016 KHS field trip to Clark County was a soggy success. Collinsorum 5(2-3):2-3
2017 Mardis, Dexter R. Results from three Herpetofaunal tallies at Wichita State University’s Youngmeyer Ranch in Northwestern Elk County. Collinsorum 6(1):8-10
2017 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2017 KHS Spring Field Trip to Elk County, Kansas. Collinsorum 6(2-3):6-8
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
Account Last Updated:
5/7/2020 4:29:45 PM