So here I am, minding my own business as I paddle around a lake, when suddenly I see a swimming turtle! A cute, little tur…rrrrt.. Huh, that is a hellava long turtle. No. Effing. Way. It’s a SNAAAKE! 😯 I backed off so we didn’t have a sequel of Snakes on a Plane, with Snakes on a Kayak.
I wasn’t even in the Everglades or south of the equator, I was here in Central Illinois. I had no idea there were water snakes in the Midwest. With that being said, my best guess at his identity is a Nerodia sipedon or a Common Water Snake.
After watching this guy swim across the lake and to the grassy edge, I was mesmerized. How does he swim? He stopped many times, wondering what I was going to do. How did he stay afloat while stopped? I was fascinated. Fascinated enough that I let myself get within about 15 feet of him. I was clearly not thinking. I did not know the identity of this snake until I researched it (from the safety of my living room!) It could have possibly been a poisonous Water Moccasin! However, I only knew of one type of poisonous snake here in Illinois, the Timber Rattlesnake and they are pretty rare, nor are they swimmers.
I made sure not to corner him and figured as long as he had an escape route, he wouldn’t come at me. Glad he agreed with me!
This snake likes to bask in the daylight hours on rocks, vines and trees, where it freaks out passing kayakers… Although this species may occasionally forage during the day, they are usually more active at night. Activity levels of this species relates to the temperature of water and ambient temperature. They mate in spring, then in late summer, Mama Snake gives birth to 20-50 live young in late July or August. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, it’s survival of the fittest.
Some quick Water Snake facts:
- The water snake averages 22 to 36 inches in length.
- Water snakes have many predators including birds, opossums, foxes, raccoons, turtles, other snakes and people.
- Although they are solitary, aside from mating season, this snake will hibernate in dens with other snakes.
- They are not poisonous, however if picked-up, they will bite, poop and to top it all off, shoot a pungent musk at you. Blech! You can be sure I’ll never find this out first hand!
After doing my research, I found many sites that explain the difference between the poisonous snakes from the innocent, Water Snake.
Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl