The Redbelly Watersnake, 05 July 2018

Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster, the Redbelly watersnake;
Lowndes county, Georgia (05 July 2018).

This past Thursday, I headed up to Lowndes county, Georgia, with my friend, Eric, to find one specific species: The Redbelly watersnake, Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster.

Eric’s originally from the Pacific Northwest and has only been in Florida for a few short years. He’s deeply in love with our snake biodiversity and counts the Nerodia watersnakes to be among his favorites. Of all our Nerodia watersnake species, however, he still hadn’t seen a Redbelly. The species ranges throughout parts of North Florida and into Georgia (and beyond), but we don’t really have them in our home territory of Volusia county, Florida. Thus, the mission was born: Drive up to the border and find a Redbelly!

After a bit of looking with no success, we eventually found a fantastically huge female Redbelly. She was gravid and about to burst with babies (a bit early, I think). On top of that, she was also close to ecdysis — the molting of its scales (thus the blue eye effect). We estimate her overall length to be near four feet — which is fairly impressive for a Redbelly. She was certainly the largest I’ve ever come across. If we had to estimate SVL, we’d say about 40 inches — not record breaking by the books, but impressive nonetheless. I simply haven’t come across a Redbelly so beefy. She was impressive.

So, at long last, Eric’s now been able to play with a Nerodia erythrogaster. She wasn’t the most brilliantly colored Redbelly I’ve come across, but she was perky and packed with attitude and personality. She was also wearing quite a bit of wear and tear — signs of the passage of time. Life ain’t easy for a watersnake, and when you find a big adult like this, you can’t help but to respect that they’ve worked very, very hard to get to this moment.

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