Copperbelly Water Snake
by R.W. Vandevender
water snake is listed as a threatened species. Threatened species
are animals and plants that are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable
future. Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger
of becoming extinct. Identifying, protecting, and restoring endangered
and threatened species is the primary objective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service's endangered species program.
is the Copperbelly Water Snake?
Name - Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta
Appearance - Copperbelly water snakes have a solid dark (usually black) back with a bright orange-red
belly. They grow to 3 to 5 feet in length. They are not poisonous.
Habitat - Copperbellies live in lowland swamps or other warm, quiet waters. Upland
woods are used as winter hibernation sites.
Reproduction - Young snakes are born in the fall near or in the winter hibernation
site. The average litter size is 18 young.
Habits - The snakes feed on frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, and small
in which the federally threatened population of the copperbelly water
snake is found.
Range - The population of copperbelly water snakes that live in southern Michigan,
northeastern Indiana, and northwestern Ohio has been listed as threatened.
Another population of copperbellies live in southwestern Indiana and
adjacent Illinois and Kentucky, and southeastern Indiana. That population
is not listed as threatened, but is protected by conservation
agreements with State Departments of Natural Resources, various other
State agencies, and coal companies.
is the Copperbelly Water Snake Listed as Threatened?
Loss or Degradation - These snakes have declined mainly because of
the drainage and filling of their lowland swamp habitat and clearing
of adjacent upland woods where they spend the winter (hibernation sites).
Collection - Copperbelly water snakes are collected fairly regularly because of
their rarity, large size, unique color, and value in the pet trade.
Under the Endangerd Species Act, collection is illegal without a permit
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Predation - During migration, copperbellies are vulnerable to predation, especially when
their migration routes are interrupted by cleared areas such as roads,
mowed areas, and farmlands.
Is Being Done to Prevent Extinction of the Copperbelly Water Snake?
Listing - The copperbelly water snake was added to the U.S. List of Endangered
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants on February 28, 1996. The population
that was listed as threatened occurs in southern Michigan, northeastern
Indiana, and northwestern Ohio. The population that occurs in southern
Illinois, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky was not listed but
has been protected by conservation agreements.
Plan - In September 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a draft recovery
plan that describes and prioritizes actions needed to conserve this species.
Research - Researchers are and will continue studying the copperbelly water snake
to find the best way to manage for the snake and its habitat.
Protection and Management - Where possible, the snake's habitat (lowland swamps
and adjacent upland woods) will be protected and improved. Endangered Species Act grants have funded habitat management on private lands that support copperbellies in Indiana and Michigan.
Education - Public education programs will be developed to raise
awareness of the snake's plight.
Can I Do to Help Prevent the Extinction of Species?
Learn - Learn more about the copperbelly water snake and other endangered
and threatened species. Understand how the destruction of habitat leads
to loss of endangered and threatened species and our nation's plant
and animal diversity. Tell others about what you have learned.
Join - Join a conservation group; many have local chapters.
Protect Copperbellies need wetlands with good water quality. Protect
water quality by minimizing use of lawn chemicals (i.e., fertilizers,
herbicides, and insecticides), recycling used car oil, and properly
disposing of paint and other toxic household products.