Midland Water Snake

Order:  Squamata (scaled reptiles)
Suborder:  Serpentes (=Ophidia) (snakes)
Family:  Colubridae ("typical" snakes)
Genus:  Nerodia (water snakes)
Also Known As: Northern Water Snake (all Nerodia sipedon subspecies), common water snake

Scientific Name:  Nerodia sipedon pleuralis (Cope, 1892)

Habitat:  Most aquatic environs; streams, ponds, lakes, for example.

Nereis=the name of a Greek sea nymph; sepedon="decay," referring to the effects of snakebite; pleura="rib/side;" alis="pertaining to," pertaining to the markings on the sides of this snake

Length:  to about 4.5 feet.
Food:  Fish, frogs, tadpoles, other aquatic life. Northern Water Snake Range
NOTE:  map indicates range of the entire Nerodia sipedon species.

I've found a few of these snakes, some in Arkansas and one in Missouri (though I wasn't able to photograph it).  This first picture is of a young (around 2 feet long) snake in a creek in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Midland Water Snake
The snake pictured at right was found by a fellow herper in our campground during a herpetological survey of Howard County, Arkansas.  It was around 3 feet long and ill-tempered!

The water snakes in much of Arkansas are considered to be within the intergrade zone between Nerodia sipedon sipedon and N. s. pleuralis.  The primary difference between the two is that on sipedon, the dark bands are wider, and on pleuralis the light bands are wider.

Midland Water Snake
This is a close-up of the above picture.  Many people mistake these and other water snakes for the venomous cottonmouth (water moccasin), and kill them.  There is no need to do so, since these snakes are relatively harmless (though some individuals will bite if handled).  The biggest drawback to picking these snakes up is that they (like many other snakes) can emit "musk" from their vent, and it STINKS! Closeup of Head