New Snake ID
Early the other morning, my husband stuck his head out the door to survey the rain, and noticed a snake on the porch. He alerted me and I ran for the camera.
The snake did not stay still for many pictures before it dove into the brush. The few pictures I got didn’t turn out that great since it was still dark out, but they was good enough that I made a preliminary identification of Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer. We have had a juvenile of that species here before.
But as I looked closer, the gray and yellow areas on the snake’s head didn’t quite match the racer pictures in the book. And the dark vertical lines below the snake’s mouth are like those in the Broad-banded Watersnakes I see all the time.
Looking through my snake book again (Texas Snakes by Alan Tennant), I saw pictures of a Yellow-bellied Watersnake. And then going back through old photos, I found these that I hadn’t been able to identify when I took them:
I realized I have seen this snake around before, once on the sidewalk, thinking about coming in to the open door of the kitchen, and once or twice just around the pond’s edge. And this summer, one day I saw a snake swimming across the pond, ran out to look, but lost it once it got to the plants at the pond’s edge. Suddenly I heard some loud frog squeaks, which I don’t usually hear during the day; then two strangled-sounding ones, and then silence. So I guessed that the snake had caught a frog.
A few weeks later when I heard the same squeaks, I ran outside, and this time I was able to locate the frog in the weeds, and it was indeed caught in a snake’s mouth. It was a pretty small snake and a medium-sized frog – I don’t know if the snake let go or the frog kicked hard, but it did get away. So with all those sightings where I couldn’t get pictures, I am glad to put all those clues together into one ID of Yellow-bellied Watersnake, Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster.
This is our tenth snake species! Herps of Texas tells me that this is one of two subspecies of Plain-bellied Watersnake. Before I moved here, I don’t think I had ever even seen a snake swimming – now I recognize that different species even swim differently.