|Florida Snakes: Non-Venomous Water Snakes(2)|
Mud snakes are found in the Coastal Plain of the southern United States
from southern Virginia south throughout Florida. Eastern mud snakes are
large snakes, reaching a length of 81 inches in adults. This highly
aquatic snake is seldom seen because of its secretive habits. Mud snakes
have a spine-like scale at the tip of their tail, and thus are sometimes
known as “horn snakes.” Male mud snakes are smaller than females but
have relatively longer and thicker tails. As adults, mud snakes feed
primarily on giant aquatic salamanders, such as
siren, but young snakes may also
consume other amphibians including salamander larvae and tadpoles.
Females lay eggs in early summer in sandy upland habitats near water and
sometimes attend the eggs until they hatch.
Gulf Salt Marsh Snake- Just as the name indicates, gulf salt marsh snakes prefer brackish and saltwater estuaries, salt marshes and tidal mud flats. The gulf salt marsh snake grows to a length of 15 to 30 inches. Distinguishing characteristics include two longitudinal tan or yellow stripes on each side of the body, making up the dorsal (top) pattern of the snake. It has a reddish-brown or grayish-black ventral (bottom) color with one to three rows of large pale spots along the center of the belly. This snake is flat headed. Small fish, crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates make up the diet of the gulf salt marsh snake. Its predators include egrets, herons and crabs. As a way to avoid predators, salt marsh snakes are nocturnal and often hide in shoreline debris and in crab burrows in the mud or sand. The gulf salt marsh snake does not have salt glands to help rid itself of the salt it eats so it must be very careful not to drink salt water. At three years, the gulf salt marsh snake reaches sexual maturity. Its mating season is in early spring, and it gives birth to live snakes.
Mangrove Water Snake- The Mangrove Water Snake is found on the Florida coast from Miami to around Cape Canaveral. It is not found outside Florida. The Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake is variable in color and pattern and can be gray, brown, olive green, or tan with faint darker banding. Some snakes are almost all black, or solid reddish orange or straw color. There may be dark stripes on the neck. The underside is variable in color - pale gray on gray snakes, faded tan on brown snakes, mostly black on black snakes. Juveniles are similar to adults. The Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake is mainly active at night, but is often seen during the day basking above the water on branches of mangrove trees. Mangrove water snakes eat other smaller snakes, including venomous snakes, and lizards.
Rainbow Snake- Rainbow Snakes are large snakes with red and black stripes and smooth scales. They are powerfully muscled. Immediately after shedding this snake is almost iridescent. Adult size is considered to be in the range of 27 to 48 inches. The young are patterned like the adults. This colorful water serpent is one of Florida's most beautiful snakes, but it is rare and difficult to find. They are found in or among floating vegetation in freshwater streams and sometimes in loose sand along the banks of waterways and swamps. Eels are reported to be their favorite food. This is a nocturnal snake and is rarely seen in broad daylight.
Striped Crayfish Snake- The striped crayfish snakes are mid-sized, highly aquatic snakes, ranging in size from 14 - 20 inches in length. Striped crayfish snakes are an iridescent brown on top with three darker stripes down the back. Its belly is a smudged yellow. They are quite shiny, and their small tapered head and large eyes give them a very unique appearance. The Striped Crayfish Snake is most common in peninsular Florida and has only recently been found in a few locations in extreme southern Georgia Crayfish snakes feed solely on crayfish and dragonfly nymphs, hence their aquatic ways. Like many other aquatic snakes, the striped crayfish snake can sometimes be seen crossing roads on rainy nights.
Redbelly Water Snake- Red-bellied watersnakes are fairly large, averaging 30-48 inches in length, semi-aquatic snakes. They are generally dark brown, light brown, or grey with a bright orange to yellowish, unpatterned underside. This beautiful snake is sometimes called the Copperbelly. Juveniles are light brown to pinkish with dark blotches on the back, alternating with blotches along the sides. Redbelly Water Snakes are most at home in rivers and swamps and it is usually a shy snake, fleeing into the water at the slightest disturbance. Red-bellied watersnakes prey primarily on amphibians, but will also eat fish. Because amphibians make up the majority of the diet, red-bellied watersnakes tend to forage more in temporary wetlands, because these habitats are breeding sites for amphibians.
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