Friday, July 13, 2012

Midland Watersnake, the Copperhead mimic?



6/13/2012 - At first glance, this snake appears to have characteristics of the venomous Copperhead (Agkistroden contortrix), but upon closer inspection one can clearly see it is indeed the Midland Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon pleuralis). The overall pattern and the head color is misleading to the intruder, not to mention the shape of the head that is flattened to give the arrowhead appearance, similar to that of a pit viper. Notice the pupil is round and not vertical. This is a dead giveaway that this snake is not venomous. See the photo of the Copperhead, notice the vertical pupil.



 Further study of the pattern reveals that these bands are broken on the rear portion of the body, and the solid bands of the front portion are not in the classic Copperhead "hourglass" shape. The habitat where I found this individual was at least one hundred feet from a small tributary in a pine forest. At first glance, I thought "Copperhead." Unfortunately, many of these snakes are killed by humans believing it is venomous. Below is a photo of a Copperhead for comparison.



The Midland Watersnake is a common inhabitant of aquatic habitats throughout north Georgia, as well as the Piedmont and western Coastal Plain.




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