Discover the Largest Plainbelly Water Snake Ever Recorded

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: April 2, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Plainbelly water snakes are not as frequently encountered as some other snake species. These snakes are primarily semi-aquatic, meaning that they typically inhabit areas near a permanent water source.
  • During colder months, plainbelly water snakes have a tendency to hibernate, but during warmer months and summer, they are typically more active.
  • During the hottest summer months, these animals are active both during the day and at night.

Snakes, also known as serpents, are unique reptiles with about 3,000 known species. These cold-blooded, egg-laying, elongated creatures are rumored to be deadly and are significantly feared worldwide.

It would be interesting to know that of the 3,000 known species of snakes, only six hundred are venomous, and only 200 can cause harm and actual fatality in humans. They can be found anywhere in the world except Antarctica and are unique in terms of length.

Today, we will discuss a not-so-famous snake known as the plain belly water snake, and in terms of size and weight, we will discover the largest plain belly water snake ever recorded. 

Where Can Plainbelly Water Snakes Be Found?

Plainbelly Water Snake
Plainbelly water snakes are found in all the U.S. southeastern states and some western states.

© Pankratov

The plainbelly water snake is scientifically known as Nerodia Erythrogaster. Although locally widespread, plainbelly water snakes are not among the most common snakes. They are semi-aquatic snakes usually found around a permanent water source, and you will spot them in or around rivers, lakes, ponds, floodplains, and wetlands. These snakes are found in all the U.S. southeastern states and some western states, including Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and many others. 

How To Identify Plainbelly Water Snakes

The prominent distinctive feature of the plainbelly water snake is its unmarked belly, hence the name. The underside of this snake is brighter-colored and can vary from yellow to red. However, its dorsal color is brown, gray, olive green, greenish-gray, or black. Some lighter-colored snakes display dark dorsal blotches.

When Are Plainbelly Water Snakes Active?

One would think that as an aquatic species, the plainbelly water snake would be more active during the cold seasons, but the opposite is the case. Plainbelly water snakes would hibernate during cold months but are usually more active in warm months and summer.

These animals are both diurnal and nocturnal in the hottest summer months. During these months, you’d find them basking in the sun on logs of wood around their natural habitat. They can travel long distances into terrestrial habitats; they tend to travel farther on land than other water snakes. 

What is the Largest Plainbelly Water Snake Ever Recorded?

Plain-Bellied Water Snake - Yellow Belly Water Snake
Giant plain belly water snakes can reach 48 inches long.


Plainbelly water snakes are generally big, with a thick body weighing an average mass of 286g in males to 516g in females. An adult plainbelly water snake would range from 24 inches long to about 45 inches. There hasn’t been any record of the largest plainbelly snakes, but the noticeably giant snakes of this species are about 48 inches long (about 122cm).

What Do Plainbelly Snakes Eat? 

Plain-bellied Watersnake - Yellow-bellied Watersnake
As carnivores, plain belly water snakes eat fish, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish.

©Tyler Albertson/

The plainbelly water snake has a unique way of filling its colorful belly. They are carnivores and feed on aquatic animals like fish, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish. They also feed on some amphibians due to their love of terrestrial habitats during the hot times.

These snakes stand as prey to both aquatic and terrestrial animals. Like most snakes, they look for their prey, but rather than hunting them down, they patiently wait for them to be close enough and capture them. After this, they swallow the prey alive without any hitch. They would go after their target if it attempted to run. 

How Do Plain Belly Snakes Reproduce?

These reptiles are ovoviviparous and bear their young ones alive. Their offspring come in the form of eggs that are hatched within the parent snake. The breeding period of the plainbelly snake is from April until mid-June. The courtship happens in groups called cords. The cords include one adult female and several adult males.

After courtship, the female plain belly water snake goes ahead to deliver its offspring somewhere around August to October. Their reproduction cycle lasts about 3 to 4 months, with an average litter size of eighteen offspring. Interestingly, a female plain belly snake in Northern California was discovered to have reproduced fifty-five hatchlings. The smallest number of offspring born by a plain belly water snake is two. 

What Eats Plainbelly Water Snakes?

Plainbelly water snakes are preyed upon by aquatic, terrestrial, and avian predators. The most common predators of the plainbelly water snake are hawks, some species of egrets, king snakes, cottonmouths, and big fish such as largemouth bass.

When preyed upon, the plain belly snakes always release a foul odor from a pair of glands in their tail. They would flatten their head and body to camouflage and bite as they try to escape. Plainbelly water snakes are not a threat if left alone; they only attack when they feel threatened. 

Are Plainbelly Water Snakes Endangered? 

Although plainbelly water snakes aren’t venomous, there is a similar species – the cottonmouth snake, which is considered harmful to humans. Plainbelly water snakes are usually killed by people who hate snakes or mistake them for cottonmouths. Asides from death by actual slaughter, these snakes are accidentally killed by vehicles when they cross the highway moving from one water source to another.

Although they have been cleared not to pose any risk to humans, they are still considered conservation risks – mostly associated with the loss of wetlands. The plainbelly water snake is not a protected species in the southeastern states.

In 1997, the copper-bellied water snake, a subspecies of the plain belly water snake, was designated a threatened species in Michigan, Ohio, and northern Indiana under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Other Record-Breaking Snakes

The western lyre snake is the largest member of the lyre snake family, known for its medium to large size. It is a slender-bodied snake with a relatively long tail that can measure between 1.10 to 1.61 meters (43 to 63 inches) in length. In contrast, other species of lyre snakes are significantly smaller, with maximum lengths that don’t exceed 40 inches.

For instance, the Sonoran lyre snake, the Baja California lyre snake, the Sinaloan lyre snake, the Mexican lyre snake, the Texas lyre snake, and the Central American lyre snake all have maximum lengths between 35 to 39 inches.

Lyre snakes are medium-sized species of snake that typically grow to nearly 4 feet (1.2 m) long. While they are common, the exact size of their population is unknown, although it is estimated to be around 10,000.

These snakes are most likely to breed in the spring season, with females laying a clutch of 10 or more eggs during the summer months. The eggs are expected to hatch in late summer and early fall.

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Plain-Bellied Water Snake - Yellow Belly Water Snake
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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