Water Snake, Lake Erie

Latin name

Nerodia sipedon insularum


Fast facts

  • Adult body length: 18 - 42 inches
  • Length at birth: 8 - 12+ inches
  • Breeding period: late spring - early summer
  • Young per year: probably 10 to 25 or 30
  • Typical foods: mainly fish, including dead or dying individuals; reportedly the Lake Erie Water Snake avoids frogs, although it may eat some.
  • This snake interbreeds with the Northern Water Snake producing what are called intergrades, individuals that show characteristics of both snakes.


    The Lake Erie Water Snake is large, heavy bodied, and more uniform in color than its close relative the Northern Water Snake. Its ground color is usually gray, which often is greenish or brownish, and the dark markings that one sees on the Northern Water Snake are greatly reduced or completely lacking. The undersurface is uniformly white or yellowish white.


    Overall Range
    The islands of western Lake Erie, in Ontario, Ohio, and perhaps Michigan.

    Range in Ohio
    The islands of western Lake Erie. Nearby Pelee Island in Ontario is the place where the original specimen of this subspecies was found, what specialists call its "type locality.” 

    Map of Ohio showing the islands these snakes live on.

    Local Habitat
    Cliffs, ledges and loose rock around edges of the islands.


    As with the Northern Water Snake this snake favors basking in sunshine on surfaces near the water's edge. Sometimes they hide under rocks. Lake Erie Water Snakes are accomplished swimmers. When fleeing pursuit they often swim at the surface, but sometimes dive to the bottom and hide under rocks. These snakes also are accomplished biters and will defend themselves vigorously both on land and under water.