12 Water Snakes In North Carolina To Look Out For!

Let's learn all about the water snakes in North Carolina!

The state of North Carolina has numerous waterbodies and these have created a perfect environment for different species to thrive. Perhaps one of the most common species that you are likely to find in North Carolina are water snakes. Depending on the region that you are going to visit then you are likely to interact with numerous species in their habitat.  These snakes move from riverbanks, ponds, lakes, and islets among other water bodies.

Here are some of the snakes that you are likely to encounter during your trip to the region.

Northern water snake 

The northern water snake, or what is called the common water snake, is one of the most common water snakes that you are going to find in North Carolina. These snakes are unique because they can grow up to 54 inches long, and the females are usually larger than the males. They come in different colors such as red, brown, gray, black, and they continue to darken as they age.

It is essential to note that these snakes usually prefer permanent water bodies; therefore, you will find them in marshes, ponds, lakes, and slow-moving waters such as streams and rivers. They are usually most active during the day and night as well. They are known to consume frogs, toads, lizards, and small fish, all of which are found along the water bodies in the state.

Learn more: Kingsnakes in North Carolina

These snakes will not attack whenever they see you, so there is a small chance that they can attack you during your trip to the region. However, you must avoid interfering with their habitat because they are known to be potentially dangerous and may attack

Rainbow snake

The rainbow snake is another one of the water snakes that you can find in the state of North Carolina. They are similar to the mud snake, and both species are often strikingly beautiful due to their gorgeous colors. Rainbow snakes are typically characterized by vivid colors ranging from red, black, and yellow, all of which alternate down their body and on their belly.

These snakes are highly aquatic species, and you are likely to encounter them in various areas, especially in slow-moving water bodies such as streams, rivers, and swamps.

Eastern mud snake

The eastern mud snake is another water snake species known to thrive in the waters of North Carolina. This snake is unique because it prefers to thrive in the mud and is commonly called the red-bellied mud snake or western mud snake, among other names. They are among the largest mud snakes that you can find in the state, with lengths of up to 105 centimeters.

These snakes have tubular bodies and are characterized by their black backs and bright red bands on their lower bodies. They are highly secretive, so the chances of finding them become slimmer as you move from one water body to the next. They prefer regions with vegetation where they can hide underneath. They usually come out for breeding and hunting purposes.

Banded water snake 

The banded water snake is another one of the water snakes that you can encounter in the state of North Carolina. It is a medium-sized snake with a heavily built body and a wide, flat head.

These snakes come in different colors depending on the region, ranging from grey, brown, and greenish-gray with distinguishing yellow bellies. They tend to darken with age, increasing the chance of encountering them in the region, and they can be confused with cottonmouths due to their flat heads.

Banded snakes are nocturnal in nature, and you will find them most active in the evening and at night. They inhabit a wide range of areas, including ponds, streams, rivers, swamps, marshes, and even lakes. During the day, they often move out to sunbathe

Plain-bellied water snake

The plain-bellied water snake is another species that makes its home in North Carolina. This snake is thick-bodied and heavily built, typically growing up to 40 inches in length. The colors of these snakes vary depending on the region where you find them, with the most common colors being olive, brown, gray, and black, and all of them have unmarked bellies.

Unlike other water snakes commonly found near lakes, ponds, and rivers, the plain-bellied water snake exhibits unusual behavior. They tend to spend most of their time away from these water sources, especially when there is high humidity or hot weather. They typically ambush their prey rather than actively hunting like other species.

When encountered, they usually flee; however, since they consume toxic amphibians such as toads, it’s advisable not to interfere with their habitat as they can transfer harmful bacteria to your system.

Eastern Ribbon snake

The eastern ribbon snake is perhaps the most common garter snake you’ll encounter in the state of North Carolina. These snakes are known for their black and brown backs adorned with three cream or yellow stripes running along their bodies.

Ribbon snakes typically spend most of their time on land, often found along the shores of water bodies in the state. They are excellent swimmers, displaying quick and precise movements as they transition from one location to another.

These snakes are nonvenomous and primarily feed on fish, frogs, tadpoles, and other prey. You can find them throughout the state of North Carolina, including the western region.

Carolina swamp snake 

The Carolina swamp snake is a legendary species that you can encounter in the state. These snakes are known to grow up to 24 inches in length and come in various colors, such as shiny brownish black with two dark stripes on their posteriors. The color of their bellies varies depending on the region where you find them, ranging from orange-red to bright red.

These snakes like to explore the slow-moving waters of North Carolina, increasing the likelihood of encountering them during your trip to the region. They often prefer hiding under rocks and logs, and since they spend most of their time underwater, it’s less likely that you’ll see them.

However, if you do encounter them, it is recommended that you avoid interfering with their habitat, as they can be aggressive. Even though they are nonvenomous, they are known to carry dangerous bacteria that can be transferred to your body through their bite.

Queen snake

The queen snake is another small water snake species you can find in North Carolina, with a maximum length of 24 inches. Their coloration typically varies depending on the location, including shades of brown and olive green, and their bellies are usually yellow or tan. They may have 2 to 4 stripes running down their sides.

This is a highly aquatic snake, commonly found in the slow-moving waters of North Carolina, such as rivers and streams. Queen snakes are diurnal creatures, meaning they are active both during the day and at night. During the day, you can often find them basking on rocks, and at night, they venture out to hunt for food.

While they are nonvenomous, it’s important to note that they consume a wide variety of creatures, increasing the likelihood of transferring harmful bacteria from their food to your body.

Brown water snake

The brown water snake is a legendary species that you can encounter in different parts of North Carolina. These snakes are thick and heavily built and can grow up to 60 inches in length when mature. They are characterized by their large heads and narrow necks.

Brown water snakes come in different colors, with most of them displaying dark brown blotches on their bodies alternating with other darker colors. They typically prefer permanent water sources, spending most of their time in places like lakes, rivers, swamps, and canals. Some species of brown water snakes are expert climbers, so you may even find them hanging on leaves and other elevated areas.

Although they are nonvenomous, it’s important to be cautious around them because they can potentially transfer dangerous bacteria from their bodies to yours. They are commonly found in the Atlantic coastal plains and the water bodies around eastern North Carolina.

Garter snake

The garter snakes are some of the most common snake species you’ll encounter in North Carolina. These snakes are unique because they can grow up to 26 inches in length and are nonvenomous. They are known to inhabit various habitats, including grassy areas, wetlands, and ponds, depending on the prevailing season.

Garter snakes are diverse and highly effective at hiding themselves in their surroundings.

Northern Cottonmouth

The northern cottonmouth snake, also known as the moccasin or gaper snake, is another one of the water snakes you might encounter during your trip to North Carolina. It is a medium-sized snake, typically black or dark grey, with a broad and blunt head. The young ones often have brighter colors, but as they age, they tend to become darker.

Northern cottonmouth snakes are fast swimmers and are commonly found in slow-moving waters such as rivers, swamps, ponds, and marshes, as well as in prairies and palmetto thickets, among other places. Unlike other water snakes, this species is highly dangerous, and you should avoid disturbing it.

Further reading: Dangerous animals in North Carolina

They are venomous, and when they feel threatened, they are likely to attack and inject their poison into your system. This can lead to the failure of vital organs such as the lungs, liver, and heart. They often rapidly vibrate their tails as a warning sign before striking, so it’s essential to exercise caution and be aware of these creatures.

Midland water snake

The midland water snake is a stout-bodied snake that is brown in color and features slightly brown crossbands on their necks which change into alternating blotches running along their body length.

Many people are fearful of these snakes because they resemble venomous species. However, it’s crucial to note that they are nonvenomous; nonetheless, they mimic the behaviors of venomous species.

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.