Description: Northern water snakes are rather large, heavy-bodied water snakes. Individuals vary in coloration and may be gray, reddish, brown, or black. The front section of the body is usually crossbanded, but on the middle and posterior portions of the body, the crossbands break up into three alternating rows of blotches. Northern water snakes usually darken with age so some older snakes may be uniformly dark. Those found in the salt marshes of the Outer Banks and nearby mainland are a distinct subspecies called the “Carolina water snake” and are considerably darker than those from inland localities.
Feeding/Diet: The diet of northern water snakes is varied, but consists primarily of fish and amphibians. They are active both during the day and at night.
Habitat/Range: They inhabit a variety of aquatic environments throughout the northern Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and mountains of North Carolina.
Reproduction: This snake gives birth to 9–45 boldly marked young in late summer and fall.
Miscellaneous: The northern water snake is often mistaken for the cottonmouth because of its dark coloration and habitat preferences. Distinctly banded individuals are sometimes mistakenly identified as copperheads or cottonmouths. When threatened, they will often flatten their bodies and spread their jaws to make themselves appear larger. If harassed or picked up, the northern water snake will not hesitate to bite and smear the antagonist with musk from glands at the base of the tail.