Hello and welcome to a slithery sort of science lesson today. I’m Mrs. Cindy from No Sweat Nature Study LIVE and I sure hope you’ll give this episode a chance even if the topic of water snake nature study seems a little scary.
Do you think you can handle it? Let’s go!
Are snakes scary?
I meet a lot of people that don’t like snakes. They don’t even like to think about them and certainly don’t want to see one. Why is that? Well, perhaps it’s because snakes slither and that seems sneaky. Or, perhaps, people are afraid of snake bites. After all, some snake bites are deadly.
While there are definitely some snakes that are dangerous, it’s estimated that 75-85% of the snakes in the world are really harmless. In fact, plenty of people love them because they eat pests like mice and rats.
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Water Snake Nature Study
Today, we’re learning about water snakes. You might think the term “water snakes” refers to any and all snakes living in the water, but it actually doesn’t. Water snakes are a genus of snakes that are non-venomous. Non-venomous means they don’t have poison in their bites as venomous snakes do.
What does genus mean? If you’re familiar with the animal taxonomy chart, the genus is the group that is just below a family and just above a species.
There are 14 different families of snakes. Water snakes come from the Colubridae family, which happens to be the largest family of snakes in the world. Water snakes are one genus of that family. The genus of water snakes is named Nerodia. Nerodia comes from the Greek word neros, which means flowing or liquid. I bet you can guess why this group of snakes got that name? Of course, they live in and around the water. Freshwater to be exact.
Fresh water is what you find in creeks and rivers and ponds and lakes. The opposite of freshwater is salt water. That’s what you find in oceans. Any animal that lives in water is called aquatic.
Water snakes are very abundant in and around freshwater in the eastern part of the United States, but they can be found all around the United States.
Let me tell you some water snake names to see if you recognize any. The northern water snake is the most common one to see, but some others include the southern water snake, diamondback water snake, green water snake, brown water snake, plain-bellied water snake, and the banded water snake. Those names are plain Jane names, don’t you think? I suppose naming them according to how they look makes it easy to identify them!
Are water snakes venomous?
While this genus of snakes known as water snakes isn’t venomous, they can bite and are known to be aggressive when disturbed. But, there is a snake that lives in the water that isn’t part of the water snake genus that DOES have a venomous bite. Do you happen to know what that snake is called? Cottonmouths or water moccasins.
Water snakes are often confused with cottonmouths. You’ll be glad to know that cottonmouth bites are rare, but you won’t be glad to know that their bites can be deadly if someone doesn’t get to the hospital as soon as possible when bitten.
How can you tell the difference between a non-venomous water snake and a cottonmouth? Unfortunately, they can look similar with dark bodies that have banded patterns. The main physical difference is that water snakes have slender bodies with slender, flattened heads, while cottonmouths have thick, heavy-looking bodies with blocky heads. Honestly, it would be hard to tell the difference without having one right beside the other.
Water Snake Habitats
Water snakes live in the water or climb trees and hang out on branches near the water. When in the water, they still have to breathe air. They have nostrils on the top of their heads making it easy to pop the tip of the head out for air.
They find food in and out of the water. As you can imagine, they eat fish, but like frogs and salamanders a lot, too.
Homeschool Nature Study Made Easy
What can you find in the No Sweat Nature Study membership to extend this lesson into even more fun learning? First, No Sweat Nature Study members have access to a special Podcast Plus+ Packet that includes go-along book suggestions!
They also have access to a video library full of 45-minute to hour-long classes about topics like rivers & brooks, wetlands, predators & prey, riparian zones, camouflage, patterns in nature, food chains, fish, crepuscular animals, and more. Each of these can take your learning down a new and exciting path!
Whether you’re looking for something worthwhile to do this summer or you’re already thinking about the homeschool curriculum for the upcoming school year, No Sweat Nature Study video classes can be a wonderful addition to your homeschool or classroom!
Water Snake Nature Study Challenge
Grab your nature journal and colored pencils or markers. You have one of two options for a nature walk today:
First, if there’s a nature preserve or zoo nearby that has snakes to see, go there. As you observe water snakes (or any other type of snake if they don’t have water snakes), observe the snakes’ habitats, behaviors, colors, shapes, sizes, scaly skin, and any patterns you see. Simply sketch what you see.
If you can’t visit a nature preserve or zoo – or you can’t bring yourself to view snakes in person, sketch a water snake or two from the pictures I’ve provided here.
Here’s one more option. If you can’t stand even the thought of looking at snakes, go on a nature walk to simply look for patterns that you can sketch in your nature journal. Why patterns? Many water snakes have beautiful patterns on their scaly skin.
One thing I don’t want you to do is to go on the hunt for snakes in the wild. While most of them are non-venomous, we don’t want to take any chances by accidentally coming upon a venomous one, okay?
Have fun and I’ll see you next week to learn about mud daubers. Until then, happy NaturExploring!
Nature Walk Curriculum
Water Snake Nature Study Resources
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Would you like to record a voicemail to answer this season’s nature study question?
At the end of each No Sweat Nature Study Podcast episode, Mrs. Cindy includes messages from a few of her friends. You have the opportunity to record a message that she might use on an upcoming episode!
All children must have their parents’ permission before leaving a recording. Parents are welcome to record an answer, too!
Each season, there will be a different question to answer. You can see this season’s question below. Think about your answer first and then follow these simple directions:
- Click the button that says “start recording”.
- Tell me your first name. (If you want to tell your age and/or where you live, feel free to do that, too.)
- You will have 60 seconds to answer the question, but try to be concise.
- Push the play button to listen to your recording before sending it to be sure it is recorded properly. If not, simply record it again.