clock 10 am – 5 pm
Blog Nature

Northern water snake

I hadn’t seen a northern water snake in the wetlands for more than a year. Granted, I missed about three months wildlife observation time in Explore the Wild in 2020 due to Covid. But from July of 2020, when we reopened, and on, I kept a sharp eye out for them each time I entered their domain.

The year before (2019), I had uninterrupted access to the wetlands from spring to fall, the entire season when water snakes are active, and I only observed three, one juvenile and two adults.

Previous to that, I could count up to a dozen water snakes per day. Their numbers are down.

So, it was with great surprise yesterday when I got a late afternoon call on the radio from Ranger Alyssa stating that she was down on the Main Wetlands Overlook staring at what she thought was a water snake.

I was on my way.

Sure enough, there it was on a little island just off the platform, basking in the low afternoon sun, a northern water snake. I snapped a few photos, chatted about how I hadn’t seen one of these snakes in quite some time, and left to go perform other Ranger duties.

The island.
My first museum northern water snake in over a year.

The next morning I was back on the platform hoping to repeat the experience, to see the snake again. Standing there with Ranger Robert and Volunteer Sam, watching the geese scrimmage over waterscape, tadpoles gulp for air, and a lone female merganser bide her time before departing north, a disturbance in the water caught my eye. There, a snake.

Water snake cutting through water of wetland.

Here it came, slicing through the green, pollen coated water, making its way past the island, off to the left of the platform and into the willows, a northern water snake.

It may or may not have been the same snake I saw the day before. It did, however, have the same reddish color to the dark bands on its body (water snakes vary greatly in coloration from snake to snake). It was probably the same individual.

What’s all the excitement about a water snake, a common snake throughout the region, a reptile that seems to inhabit every stream, river, puddle, pond or lake? Well, that’s a story for another time. For now, I’ll simply take comfort in the fact I got to see a northern water snake in our wetlands after such a long absence.

Look closely, you can see the snake’s tracks in pollen on surface of water (bottom right towards top left).