Watersnake populations tend to come and go with time. An area thick with them can dry up rather suddenly because of any number of environmental factors: pollution, water level, loss of prey, over-zealous collectors, and so on. On the flip-side, an area not known for having watersnakes can suddenly host tons of them — again because of any number of environmental factors. Things change in Florida, and change is not always driven by the introduction to non-native species.
With this in mind, we were delighted to find this gorgeous youngster. The baby banded was found in an manicured-park area that used to host heaps of colorful bandeds and cottonmouths a little over a decade ago — but had long since dried up. According to some local friends of mine in Alachua county, the loss of water-prone snakes was perhaps due to intensive grounds maintenance in this area (which, itself, was likely driven/impacted by hurricane and tropical storm damage). All the watersnakes and cottonmouths essentially disappeared, likely moving to a nearby area that offered a more protected and hospitable habitat system. Thus, finding this kid (along with the adult in our previous post) was a sign that they may be moving back into this immediate area. Finding a youngster was a very good sign that they’re repopulating this particular area.
This tickles me because this little corner of Alachua county used to be home to a decent number of what I call “caramello” banded watersnakes, a nickname I have for a particular banded watersnake pattern. The Banded watersnake is extremely variable in coloring and patterning throughout the Florida peninsula. My favorites are a swirled mix of bright oranges, reds, and tans. I call these “caramellos.” I’ve only seen caramellos in a few Alachua county spots and two Lake county spots. The individual featured here looks like it may be a juvenile caramello. As it grows, those light tans and oranges may end up dominating the facial and dorsal patterns. Maybe. It could just be an awesomely patterned “standard” banded, as I call them, but still… maybe.
I guess I’ll just have to return to this spot repeatedly to look for more in the years to come! Whatever the case, I’m thrilled we found three bandeds (two of which we were able to catch, photograph, and release, and one of which that escaped the gaze of our camera lenses). What an adorable little kid this one was. More please!