A Fairly Dark Florida Banded Watersnake, 20 March 2015

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake;
Collier county, Florida (20 March 2015).

We’ve seen a few Florida banded watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) on Floridensis thus far, but the individual featured here remains one of my favorites.

As noted before on this blog, the Florida banded watersnake is extremely variable in coloring and patterning. In Collier county, the dominant pattern/design tends to be what you see here: very, very dark. Though entirely non-venomous and not a threat to humans (or cats or dogs or ferrets or whatever large pet you may have), this dark pattern can easily lead to confusion to those who assume these dark snakes must be venomous Florida cottonmouths. For many people, Large-Dark-Snake-Near-Water = Venomous Cottonmouth. Unfortunately, that math doesn’t really add up. It doesn’t really equate to reality, and many harmless Florida banded watersnakes are subsequently killed by terrified and misinformed people.

Also note the “arrow”-shaped head in the second image below. Non-venomous watersnakes (and many other non-venomous snake species) can and often do flex their jaws as a defensive display. This behavior can exacerbate the confusion because many people have been erroneously taught that a diamond- and/or arrow-shaped snake head signifies that a snake is venomous. This is simply not true in the real world. It’s only true in the fantastical world of simple diagnostic mythologies passed down from generation to generation. As is often the case, the realities of the natural world around us are far more complicated and beautiful than the simple rhymes and binaries we were taught as children.

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