Salt Marsh Bandeds, Part I (09 May 2020)

Part I:
The First Salt Marsh… Banded

On the May 9th, I took the kayak out to the Tomoka Basin to paddle around and look for signs of salt marsh snakes. Volusia County has dwindling populations of the Atlantic salt marsh snake (Nerodia clarkii, ssp. taeniata), a non-venomous watersnake species adapted to life on the salt marsh. In recent decades, however, Florida banded watersnakes, Nerodia fasciata, ssp. pictiventris, have encroached into our salt marsh habitats and hybridized with the Salt marsh snakes (N. clarkii [x] N. fasciata). I’ve found a found and photographed a few of those hybrids over the years at the edge of the salt marsh, but I’ve never found one out in the salt marsh itself by kayak. Not until this day, 09 May 2020.

As it turned out, I came across four Nerodia in the salt marsh habitats of the Tomoka Basin on my little kayak excursion. Featured here is the first, an individual that was perched at the edge of a dense salt marsh stand (an “island” of muck, in a sense). I was only able to snag a quick (mercifully clear) reference shot before the snake retreated out of sight. This snake didn’t really exhibit any of the characteristic patterns of the salt marsh snake, Nerodia clarkii. It appeared to simply be Nerodia fasciata pictiventris on the surface. If it was a hybrid, I’d guess it was hybridized a few generations back. Phenotypically, this snake was heavily fasciata. 

GENUS NERODIA

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake;
Volusia county, Florida (09 May 2020).
Learn more about this species at iNaturalist.org.

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