The Most Snake-Infested Lakes in New York

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: October 24, 2023
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Key Facts:

  • New York is home to a variety of lakes that are attractive habitats for snakes.
  • The state itself is home to 17 species of the reptile; the black ratsnake, the common garter, and the eastern milk snakes are the most common.
  • Only three species are venomous: the copperhead, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, and the timber rattlesnake.  
These are the most snake-infested lakes in the state of New York.

New York is the fourth most populous state in the United States. The state is known for its cultural, media, and economic significance, but there are more intriguing things about the Empire State.

New York has 17 species of snakes, of which only 3 are venomous.

New York boasts diverse geography which includes mountains, islands, and more than 7,600 freshwater lakes and ponds. The state notably borders Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, as well as the famous Niagara Falls. These diverse landscapes allow a variety of animals to occupy areas of the state, including snakes, which are rather fond of lake areas. 

These slithering reptiles are all capable of swimming in shallow and slow-moving lakes, but some spend more time in water bodies than others. Due to their fast and mass reproduction, these semi-aquatic snakes can easily cause an infestation problem, even in lakes. This article dives into the most snake-infested lakes in New York.

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How Many Snake Species Are in New York?

New York City, Urban Skyline, City, USA, Cityscape

There are 17 snake species in New York.

©iStock.com/TomasSereda

New Yorkers are not quite accustomed to encountering snakes so often. The northeastern state has 17 snake species, which pales greatly compared to Texas, which has 105 different species and subspecies of snakes, per Texas Parks and Wildlife. These species can be found in the wet parts of the state, such as the Hudson Valley and Bergen Swamp.

Of the 17 snake species in New York, only three are venomous: the northern copperhead, timber rattlesnake, and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

Some common snake species in New York are the eastern milk snake, the common garter snake, and the black rat snake, which is the longest snake in the state. Despite the vast range of these snakes within the state, there is only one water snake species, the northern watersnake.    

6 Most Snake-Infested Lakes in New York

Several snakes in New York can be found in almost every part of the state. Six of the most snake-infested lakes in New York are:

1. Echo Lake

Echo lake

Water snakes in Echo Lake threaten the trout and amphibian populations.

©Squidocto / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Echo Lake is a mountain lake found within the Catskill Mountains. The 13-acre lake is good for fishing, and the surrounding landscapes for hiking. According to U.S. Forest Service, the brook and rainbow trouts are abundant fish species in the lake and serve as food to snakes in the region.

Water snakes are found in the Echo Lake Basin and feed on the fish in abundance. However, once the fish are depleted, they turn on amphibians. Timber rattlesnakes are also present in the Echo Lake and Overlook Mountain areas in warmer months.

2. Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain, 120 miles long, has recently seen a rise in rattlesnakes.

©Cassie Blaise-Metcalf/Shutterstock.com

Lake Champlain is located between New York and Vermont. The 435 square mile lake stretches for 120 miles and is considered the Sixth Great Lake. According to Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, the common watersnake is established in Lake Champlain Basin.

News reports reveal that Split Rock Mountain, which is close to the lake, has had a rise in rattlesnake population in recent years. The reason for this is believed to be climate change and the Split Rock Wildway being a migratory route for animals. There are reportedly two snake dens in the area, kept secret from humans to protect the snakes.

3. Lake Erie

Lake Erie is a Great Lake known for its large population of Lake Erie watersnakes.

©zrfphoto/Shutterstock.com

Lake Erie is the shallowest Great Lake in the United States and the fourth largest by surface area. According to the Great Lakes Commission, the 62 feet deep lake touches four American states, including New York, and also Ontario Province in Canada.

There is folklore about a giant serpent nicknamed Bessie that was once sighted in the lake centuries ago. However, while that tale cannot be verified, there have been common sightings of snakes in the large lake. The most abundant snake species in the lake is the Lake Erie watersnake, which is approaching about 12,000 in population.

4. Oneida Lake

Oneida is the largest lake to exist within New York’s bounds.

©iStock.com/Mirages-nl

Oneida Lake might not be one of the most popular lakes in the United States, but it is the largest lake that solely exists within New York, and has a surface area of 79.8 square miles. The lake is often called the thumb of the Finger Lakes, a group of 11 narrow lakes south of Lake Ontario.   

Oneida Lake has an average depth of about 22 feet, but despite its depth, it still has snake-sightings. According to news reports, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is often found in the Oneida Lake Swamp area. Northern watersnakes have also been known to swim in the lake.

5. Canopus Lake

canopus lake

Northern watersnakes and black rat snakes are commonly found in Canopus Lake.

©Daniel Case / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Canopus Lake is a man-made lake located in Northern Putnam County. The 66-acre lake is used for swimming and boating, among other water activities. The freshwater lake freezes over in the winter, and its surface is used as a trail for skiing.

Canopus Lake is not only known for its abundance of bluegills and largemouth bass but also for its snakes. According to the New York State Parks, northern watersnakes and black rat snakes are commonly found in the lake. Due to the snake population in the lake area, there have been incidents of snake bites in the region.

6. Lake George

Lake George, the Queen of American Lakes, is believed to have about 10 snake species.

©iStock.com/Linda Bielko

Lake George, also known as the Queen of American Lakes, is a narrow lake located at the base of the Adirondack Mountains. The New York lake is about 32 miles long and has an average depth of 70 feet. According to reports, 10 species of snakes were documented in and around Lake George during the New York State Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project between 1990 and 1999. Some documented snakes are the common garter, northern redbelly, and black racer snakes.

The timber rattlesnake, the most venomous snake in New York, can also be found in and around the lake. Other dangerous animals to look out for are leeches and black bears.

Red-bellied water snake

The northern red-bellied snake can be found in New York lakes.

©iStock.com/gsagi

Summary of the Most Snake-Infested Lakes in New York

Here’s a recap of the most snake-infested lakes in the state of New York that we took a close look at:

NumberLakeSnakes Present
1Echo LakeWater snakes, timber rattlesnakes
2Lake ChamplainCommon watersnakes, rattlesnakes
3Lake ErieLake Erie watersnakes
4Oneida LakeEastern massasauga rattlesnakes, northern watersnakes
5Canopus LakeNorthern watersnakes, black rat snakes
6Lake GeorgeCommon garter snakes, northern redbelly snakes,
black racer snakes, timber rattlesnakes

What Threatening Animals Can Be Found Near New York Lakes?

Timber rattlesnakes aren’t the only harmful creatures in or around the lakes of New York. Other dangerous animals to look out for are leeches and black bears. There is a robust population of black bears in New York, with an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 roaming the Adirondacks in search of food. Another large and sometimes threatening animal found in New York is the moose, which also inhabits the Adirondacks but in much small numbers compared to black bears. Moose usually avoid confrontation but may kick, stomp, or charge to protect themselves and their young. It is estimated that 20,000-30,000 coyotes live in New York. Coyotes can pose a threat to humans and their pets if they become overly comfortable in a neighborhood.

What State Has the Most Snake Bites?

Copperhead Snake (Agkistrodon contortrix)

The venomous copperhead snake is among the snakes responsible for snake bites in North Carolina.

©Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

If you live in New York state, you’re in luck, as the rate of snake bites per year is low. The National Library of Medicine published that between 2000 and 2010, there were a total of 473 snake bites reported to 5 different poison control centers. Of those bites, roughly 14% came from venomous snakes. That averages out to around 7 bites a year from venomous snakes. A smaller percentage than the 14% total required actual antivenom. So if you’re a New York resident, the chances of you being bitten by a venous snake, or any snake for that matter, are low.

However, there are other states where snake bite numbers are quite high each year. So what state ranks the highest in snake bites? That would be North Carolina. This southeastern state’s bite rate is 157.8 bites per million population per year. How does that average out? Well, the population as of 2021 was a little over 10 million (10.55 to be exact). If we were to just figure it off of 10 million, that would mean that there are roughly 1,580 reported snake bites per year.

The top 6 states for reported snake bites are as follows:

  • North Carolina–157.8 bites per million
  • West Virginia–105.3 bites per million
  • Arkansas–92.9 bites per million 
  • Oklahoma–61 bites per million
  • Virginia–48.7 bites per million
  • Texas–44.2 bites per million

In North Carolina, there are 6 different kinds of venomous snakes: copperhead, cottonmouth, timber rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and eastern coral snake. In 2019, 92 people were bitten by venomous snakes in that state.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Kyle Reynolds

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Sources
  1. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Available here: https://www.fws.gov/species/lake-erie-water-snake-nerodia-sipedon-insularum
  2. NY State Parks & Historic Sites, Available here: https://nystateparks.blog/tag/canopus-lake/
  3. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Available here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/58888.html