Water Snakes

August 13, 2017 daryl bauer

Someone called to my attention this headline on the internet a few weeks ago:

Snake steals, eats fish caught by fisherman

I read the story, thought to myself, “So what?”  However, I suppose to some journalist, and maybe to a bunch of city folks reading, that might have been sensational news!

The story comes from Iowa, but the same snakes, common water snakes, are found throughout Nebraska, Nebraska Snakes.

Photo from University of Nebraska–Lincoln, School of Natural Resources, Amphibians, Turtles and Reptiles of Nebraska.

Having spent a bit of time around water, especially tromping along shorelines, I have encountered more than my share of common water snakes.  Earlier this year while catching panfish at Burchard Reservoir in southeast Nebraska, my kids and I encountered several of these snakes in an afternoon of fishing.  Yes, common water snakes eat fish, and yes, they can have a bit of an attitude.

I am not a snake lover, but I am not a hater either.  Once encountered, I have no problem admiring snakes of any species and then both going our separate ways.  Unfortunately, common water snakes are not my favorites because I have had several less-than-friendly encounters with them over the years.

A buddy and I used to use minnow traps to collect some bait back in my school days.  Many of the small streams and sloughs around North Platte were productive minnow-trapping grounds, but we dreaded pulling up a trap and finding a common water snake inside.  The water snakes would swim into the minnow traps to get our minnows!  Most of the time that meant a drowned water snake, and no minnows.  Occasionally, the water snake would still be alive, and that resulted in a rodeo of boys, minnow trap, and nasty water snake.  We hated it when that happened.

I also am not a snake expert by any means, most of what I know comes from the University of Nebraska’s website I linked to above, but I am a fisheries biologists and I hear lots of stories about aquatic creatures.  Not a year goes by that I do not hear reports of “water mocassins” in Nebraska.  Water mocassins or cottonmouths are a poisonous water snake and I suppose some might say our common water snakes do look like them, but if you see an honest-to-goodness water mocassin, their ain’t no comparison.  However, with their bad attitude, our common water snakes may act a bit like them.  The fact is, poisonous water mocassins are found nowhere near Nebraska–they are a southern species found only as close as southern Missouri.

Spend any amount of time on “wild” water in Nebraska and you are going to encounter one of these common water snakes.  I am not saying you have to love ’em, in fact I am sure you will be better off if you leave ’em alone, but admire them, and then let ’em be!

Wikimedia photo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nerodia_sipedon.jpg

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