The northern water snake is the one who is eating all your fish. Here is what I’ll bet you didn’t know about them.
Snakes have managed to colonize six of the seven continents—Antarctica, being the obvious odd one out—and have evaded extinction, despite man’s heavy ecological footprint. Oh, and the northern snake may or may not have eaten your catch once before.
Northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) are endemically common throughout much of the United States and on into the southern regions of Canada. In fact, they’re so ecologically successful that established populations of these amphibious serpents have now been documented in sunny California, competing with giant garter snakes (Thamnopis gigas) for both prey and territory—both snakes inhabit the marshlands and river systems of their ranges.
A Fancy for Fish
Northern water snakes have an affinity toward consuming common pond fish. Bluegills and perch are appetizers. Juvenile small and largemouth bass are main courses.
There are four subspecies of northern water snakes—the northern, midland, Lake Erie, and Carolina. The snake’s primary threats (like many other threatened organisms) are habitat destruction and, what I like to call, “ecological witch hunts”—tourists and lake-hugging individuals alike who kill large numbers of snakes due to the mantra, “the only good snake is a dead snake.” But because of outreach programs and the implementation of habitat preservation platforms, the snakes are slithering back.
And on that uplifting note, I’ll leave you all with this: the only good snake is a snake that is still alive, competing with your lure.