Nine well-known species of freshwater-dwelling snakes live in the United States, each with a slightly different appearance and habitat preference. One thing they all have in common, however, is their method of reproduction, which is different from that of most of their land-loving counterparts. Sea-dwelling water snakes, on the other hand, are split in their methods of reproduction.
Fresh and Salty
Water snakes can be found both in freshwater and saltwater habitats. Generally speaking, freshwater snakes are referred to as water snakes, while saltwater snakes are referred to as sea snakes. Both types spend the majority of their time in the water, heading onto land for only short periods. Snakes that live on land, in jungle canopies or underground are capable of swimming and may enter the water on occasion, but do not spend most of their time there.
Most water snakes, including the Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon), found throughout much of the Eastern United States, are live-bearers. This means that the female does not lay eggs, but gives birth to live young. Well-known relatives of the Northern water snake, who also give birth to live young, include the Florida, diamondback, broad-banded, and plain-bellied water snakes. Freshwater snakes in the United States are part of the genus Nerodia, which are all live-bearers.
Some sea snakes lay eggs on land rather than bearing live young. The most notable of these is the colubine sea krait, also known as the yellow-lipped or banded sea krait. This snake is highly venomous and is easily distinguished by the contrasting black and white bands on its body. The young hatch on land and then make their way to the sea.
Most freshwater snakes mate when the weather begins to warm up, usually between April and June, and hibernation is ending. This mating often takes place on land, near the place where the snakes have hibernated for the winter, often in protected rocky areas and caves. The gestation period is between three and five months, depending on the species of snake.
Whether the female snake gives birth to live young or lays eggs, neither she nor her mate protects or cares for the young. Newborn water snakes are capable of swimming, hunting and finding shelter from birth and do not require care. The number of water snakes birthed at a single time can vary wildly, from a small group of four to a massive group of 99.