Mississippi Green Water Snake Control (Nerodia cyclopion)
Many water snakes are actually harmless, despite the fears raised by the cottonmouth or water moccasin. Mississippi green water snakes are one of those harmless-to-humans nonvenomous water snakes. And while you probably don’t want to go around chasing them down and picking them up, they are a valuable part of the ecosystem. If you suspect that you have these snakes on your property, here’s how to identify them and how to deal with their presence. Note: We suggest that you have a snake removal professional found here to handle these problems
Mississippi Green Water Snake Identification
The Mississippi green water snake is heavy-bodied, reaching two to a little over four feet when full-grown. It’s olive-green to brownish, with indistinct vertical black bars on sides, alternating with faint crossbars on back; this patterning is more distinct in juveniles.
Its range extends on the coastal plain along the Gulf coast from extreme western Florida and southern Alabama to southeastern Texas, and then north in the Mississippi Valley to southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. You can find the this water snake basking on banks or in shore vegetation, anywhere near water: along streams, rivers, bayous, shallow lakes and ponds, wet coastal prairie, flooded fields, abandoned rice fields and rice field reservoirs, and some brackish-water marshes. They are more abundant where there’s heavy vegetation and water currents are slow.
Mississippi Green Water Snake Behavior
Mississippi green water snakes feed upon minnows and small fish, and sometimes small amphibians. It can be very destructive in goldfish ponds. In turn, its predators (animals that prey upon the snake) include egrets, herons and crabs.
In addition to being a great swimmer, water snakes are good climbers and will often bask on tree branches hanging low over the water. When swimming or crawling, water snakes will hold their head close to the ground.
Distinguishing Water Snakes from Cottonmouths / Water Moccasins
The easiest way to distinguish nonvenomous water snakes (Nerodia spp.) from cottonmouths or water moccasins is by their behavior when approached. Water snakes almost always flee quickly into the water when threatened, while cottonmouths often will stand their ground and perform their threat display, which includes vibrating its tail and throwing its head back with its mouth opened to show the startling white interior, hissing and pulling the upper body into an S-shape. Other threat display behaviors include flattening its body, and emitting a foul-smelling substance from the base of its tail. Water snakes are not always wallflowers, however. When picked up, they readily and repeatedly bite, and while they’re nonvenomous, they have a lot of teeth and their bites can be painful.
Another way to distinguish harmless water snakes from cottonmouths is by looking at their eyes; water snakes have round pupils, while cottonmouths have vertical, cat-like pupils. When swimming or crawling, another distinguishing characteristic is that cottonmouths will hold their heads up high, at an angle of about 45 degrees, while watersnakes will keep their heads more or less level with the water or ground.
Here’s an excerpt from an excellent guide published by the Georgia DNR:
· Water moccasins, or "cottonmouths," are relatively short and wide. Water snakes are longer and more slender.
· Water moccasins bask on land, or on logs and stumps near water surface; water snakes are good climbers and spend a lot of time basking on branches hanging over water.
· Water moccasins move slowly and defend their territory while water snakes move quickly away from disturbances.
· When swimming, cottonmouths keep their heads elevated above the water and bodies riding nearly on the water surface. Water snakes keep their head and body low and below the water surface.
· Cottonmouths always cock their heads at a 45 degree angle on land. Water snakes keep their heads level with the ground.
Mississippi Water Snake Control and Exclusion
Repellents, whether ultrasonic, scent-based or flavor-based, are universally ineffective. Inexpertly placed glue traps can catch and injure non-target animals, creating additional problems.
Habitat modification techniques are much more effective. For water snakes, this may include cutting long grass next to bodies of water, and cutting back branches overhanging water. However, these measures may degrade water quality in the long term, reducing or eliminating populations of desired animals such as fish, frogs, birds, and turtles.
To keep water snakes out of your home or building, here are some effective measures to take:
· Structural gaps and crevices larger than 1/4 inch and within three feet of grade should be closed off; snakes can pass through very small openings.
· Screens on crawlspace vents should have mesh smaller than 1/4 inch.
· A thorough search should be made for cracks in the foundation, unscreened crawlspace vents, torn screens, and gaps around basement window frames.
· Check clearances under doors; seal any gaps with weatherstripping.
· Look for improper sealing where plumbing and utility lines penetrate the foundation of the building.
If you need to reduce water snake populations on your property, it is best to call in an experienced professional in water snake trapping and removal. They can take care of your snake problem quickly and efficiently, leaving you to enjoy the great outdoors in peace.