Wisconsin status: common
length: 24-40 inches
You're sitting on a dock, minding your own business, when you notice a snake swimming by in the water. Chances are you just spotted the northern watersnake. This very common snake is found throughout Wisconsin, likes to live in or close to water, especially clean rivers. Living close to water, its favorite foods are crayfish, slow-moving fish and a variety of amphibians. (Frogs look out!)
This is a medium to large heavy-bodied snake. You can identify it by its gray, brown or tan background color and its brown, red-brown or black blotches. The underside of the northern water snake is distinctive. It is white with bright red half-moons mixed with dark gray specking. Many people, when seeing this snake, think they've seen a venomous (poisonous) water moccasin. But, if they're in Wisconsin, they haven't. There are no water moccasins anywhere near Wisconsin. Unfortunately, some people will kill this snake because of mistaken identity. So, the next time you're sitting on a dock and a snake swims by, don't worry--it's not a water moccasin. It's only the northern watersnake looking for a meal.