"I've seen water moccasins in my pond." "My dad kills the cottonmouths back by the river each year". "Careful, those snakes in the water are poisonous." I've heard many people through the years tell me about how they have seen and subsequently killed cottonmouths or water moccasins, a venomous snake of the south, in Ohio's waterways. Unfortunately for us, we just don't have this species, Agkistrodon piscivorus. What we do have is the Northern Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon. They frequent the Olentangy River, but until yesterday, I had not photographed them. Luckily, I found two snakes, one a beautifully banded juvenile and the second a mature adult that had just captured a meal.
To me, these snakes are unique looking. There heads are particularly tall, most other snakes have more flattened heads. They bite like the devil if you try to disturb them, so do not even try! If you have seen the Dirty Job's episode with Mike Rowe and Kristin Standford, you will definitely not try to pick up one of these snakes. Although the show featured the Lake Erie Watersnake, a subspecies of the more common species pictured above, they have similar temperaments Anyways, these get a horrible wrap because people think they are poisonous, but they do have plenty of endearing features. They are fantastic swimmers, gliding on top of and darting underneath the water. The mature snake pictured in the water has something in its mouth-- I couldn't tell exactly what it had captured, but it was pink and had a tail. Maybe baby squirrel or muskrat? These snakes are true survivors. I have not spotted any other serpent species in the Columbus area, but here in the Olentangy, Nerodia sipedon appears to thrive.