Northern/Common Water Snake - (Nerodia Sipedon)
Photo courtesy of: David Kisner
The Northern/Common Water Snake (Nerodia Sipedon) is a non-venomous species considered to be West Virginia's most defensive snake. They're a very common species found all over the state near or in small streams, ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water. This species may exceed four feet in length and has heavily keeled scales with a dorsal pattern of reddish-brown to black blotches on a background of pale gray to dark brown. Their yellow to orange belly is liberally marked with dark crescent-shaped blotches and their diet consists of fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They may give birth to up to 50 young that are around 6-9 inches long annually. Due to its defensive behavior, semi-aquatic habitat, and diet this snake is not often found in the pet trade.
This snake is often killed by those who mistake it for the venomous Water Mocassin which is NOT found in West Virginia or the Northern Copperhead due to its similar color and pattern. I've heard it said several times that this snake will "swim towards you to attack" and the fact is that most encounters with this species occur in its natural habitat when people are swimming and the snake will often attempt to retreat to deeper water to escape threats, if you're between the snake and deeper water an attempt to flee is often mistakenly seen as an attack.