DIAMOND-BACKED WATERSNAKE
Nerodia rhombifer (Hallowell 1852)
nĕr-ō-dē-ŭh — rŏm-bĭf-ĕr-ă


Conservation Status:

State: None

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

Adult Diamond-backed Watersnake from Sedgwick County.  © Mike Everhart?
An adult Diamond-backed Watersnake eating a Black Bullhead, in Barton County. Image © Joni Johnson-Godsy.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult Diamond-backed Watersnake from Stafford County. © Edward Arthur?.
An adult from Barton County. Image © Jim Scharosch.

Description:
Harmless. Strongly keeled scales; dark spots shaped like half-moons scattered irregularly on yellow belly; 30–65 narrow dark brown, black or gray bands on a light gray or yellowish-gray body. Young the same as adults.
The Diamondback Water Snake has a reticulated dorsal pattern. There are rather small light-colored blotches found on the middle of the back and large bars that extend up from the ventral line. There are often small lines that connect the blotches to the bars. All of these markings are brown or grayish. Larger adults may appear solid brown to olive when they are dry, but the pattern is usually discernible on wet individuals.
The tail is ringed and the rings are the same color as the dorsal markings. The belly is entirely yellow to cream anteriorly, changing to yellow with many brown half-moon shaped markings. These markings may be sparse or absent in the center and become much more numerous at the edges of the belly. The labials are bright yellow. Newborn diamondback water snakes look like lighter and brighter versions of the adults.
Adults normally attain 760-1,220 mm (30- 48 inches) in total length. The largest specimen from Kansas is a female (KU 204483) from Douglas county with total length of 1,415 mm (55½ inches) collected by Gregory Beilfuss on 25 March 1986. The heaviest example from the state is a female (KU 207187) from Lyon County that weighed 1,750 grams (3 pounds, 14 ounces) collected by B. Stapp on 18 May 1987. The maximum length throughout the range is 69 inches (Boundy, 1995).

Distribution:
Found commonly in farm ponds, reservoirs, and streams along the Kansas (below Manhattan), Marais des Cygnes, Neosho, Verdigris, and Arkansas (below Great Bend) rivers. The Diamondback Water Snake inhabits rivers, sloughs, ponds, backwaters, and oxbows.
(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 280
    Records 
  • 267
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 13
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (1); Anderson (1); Barber (4); Barton (27); Bourbon (3); Butler (2); Chautauqua (4); Cherokee (6); Coffey (6); Cowley (8); Crawford (9); Douglas (64); Elk (2); Franklin (31); Greenwood (4); Harper (9); Harvey (2); Kingman (1); Labette (8); Leavenworth (2); Linn (6); Lyon (16); Meade (11); Miami (6); Montgomery (4); Morris (2); Neosho (6); Osage (2); Pratt (1); Reno (1); Riley (1); Sedgwick (1); Shawnee (1); Stafford (4); Sumner (2); Wabaunsee (1); Wilson (2); Woodson (19);

Natural History:
Inhabits permanent lakes, marshes and swamps, and backwaters of rivers. Active from March to September; basks during the day on brush, logs, and grassy banks along the edge of the water. In summer, searches for food at night. Large litters, ranging from 13-62 young are usually born from August to early October. Feeds primarily on slow-moving or dead fishes.
Copulation probably takes place right after emergence from hibernation. Many males may court one female at the same time. The females are usually quite a bit larger than the males. The pair usually will select a basking perch such as a shrub or branch overhanging water for copulation. Matings have been observed on the banks or even in the water, however.
During breeding, both snakes may make undulating movements with their bodies and the pair may remain locked up for an hour or more. Young are born alive in late June into August. The young are from 9 - 13 1/8 inches at birth (Conant, 1975) and are pugnacious like the adults. An average of 30 young may be produced in a single litter.

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 and Hoyle (1935) commented on an encounter with this species in southeast Kansas; "One of these snakes was found at the side of a shallow roadside ditch near a garden and above a culvert in Labette county, Kansas, on April 22, 1933. When discovered it had only the top of its head and its eyes above the surface of the water. The head was seized and the snake attempted to withdraw into a shallow tunnel in the earth. Failing in this it made an effort to disconcert its captor by the use of its nauseating odoriferous secretion as it wound about his arm."

Bibliography:
1877 Mozley, Annie E. List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State University. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
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
1913 Crow, H. E. Some trematodes of Kansas snakes. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 7(4):125-136
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.
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
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
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
1956 Diener, Richard A. New records of snakes in southwestern Kansas. The Southwestern Naturalist 1(1):27-29
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.
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 Capron, Marty and Jan Perry. A July weekend in Great Bend. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (14):1-2
1976 Grow, David. The KHS goes to Chetopa. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (13):2-3
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1979 Rundquist, Larry L. Herps observed or collected during the first three months of 1979. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (30):6-7
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.
1983 Miller, Larry L. Bourbon County field trip well attended and successful. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (54):6-7
1983 Simmons, John E. Fan fare. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (54):16-18
1985 McAllister, Chris T. Nerodia rhombifera. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (376):1-4
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1985. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (63):4
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1986. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (66):9-16
1988 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1987. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (71):13-19
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1989. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (78):16-21
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1991 Capron, Marty. Unusual foraging behavior in water snakes (Nerodia) around drying pools in southcentral Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (84):14-15
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.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Additions and corrections [to the results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994]. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (98):4
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 Boundy, Jeff. Maximum lengths of North American snakes. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 30(6):109-122
1995 Rundquist, Eric M. Additional KHS herp counts for 1995. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (102):11-
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. Addendum to 1997 KHS herp counts. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (109):14-15
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
1998 Schmidt, Curtis J. Herpetological observations at Cheyenne Bottoms, Barton County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (113):15
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
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 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.
2003 Platt, Dwight R. Lizards and snakes (Order Squamata) of Harvey County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):13-20
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
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.
2004 Miller, Larry L. Sumner County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (11):11-12
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 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. Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 spring field trip to beheld in Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (37):5-7
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 Mardis, Dexter Quivira National Wildlife Refuge herpetological outing. Collinsorum 2(1/2):13
2013 Mardis, Dexter and Kevin Scott. 2013 Kansas Herpetofaunal Counts. Collinsorum 2(3/4):7
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 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
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
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 ‘Fall’ field trip to Barber County. Collinsorum 5(2-3):6-7
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Summer field trip to Caney River, Chautauqua County, Kansas. Collinsorum 5(2-3):4-5
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:
10/13/2020 7:55:19 AM