Heaven knows I can’t get enough of Nerodia watersnakes, and Spring Break 2018 certainly provided a plethora of these misunderstood and non-venomous snakes. Of all the Nerodia watersnakes we found in our south Florida romp, the Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, was clearly the most abundant.
In 48 hours, we observed 53 total snakes in south Florida. Of those, 22 of them were positively identified as Brown watersnakes. In contrast, 13 were Banded watersnakes, 5 were Florida green watersnakes, 3 were Cottonmouths, and 10 were unidentified snakes, likely watersnakes, that slipped into the water before we could identify them. I’d be willing to bet that most of the “unidentified” snakes were also Brown watersnakes because of their habitat and positioning; Brown watersnakes prefer to bask in foliage hanging over the water. Their primary mode of defense is to simply drop into the water — and that’s precisely what happened with most of our “unidentified” encounters. Plop.
As for the Brown watersnakes we came across, we found them at various stages of life. Some were rather young and trim while others were chunky beefcakes with some mileage on them. This individual was, like myself, somewhat middle-aged. It had some mass to it, but still showed strong patterning on its dorsal (some browns, but not all, lose a bit of the contrast in their dorsal patterning when and if they get old).
Brown watersnakes are entirely non-venomous. They will, however, sometimes (but not always) bite in self-defense if grabbed or accosted by hand or foot. They’re certainly not a species to fear, though the same could and probably should be said (again and again) of all native snake species in Florida. Learn what they are and respect their space, and there won’t be any problems!