The Brown Water Snake is a heavy-bodied aquatic Florida snake.

DESCRIPTION: A brown snake with black markings on its back, fat and well-suited for swimming.

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Brown Water Snake – A case of mistaken identity

In the United States alone, there exists a wide variety of snakes. They are primarily identified as venomous or non-venomous. Each species carries with it habitat requirements, individual mannerisms, and unique features that collectively serve the big picture of the natural world.

But how does one distinguish between two species when their characteristics seem to mirror each other? It usually requires closer examination to reveal small nuances in each species that will facilitate easier and more reliable identification.

The brown water snake is one species that is too often subject to a case of mistaken identity. Its supposed doppelganger is the cottonmouth or water moccasin. At first glance, they do indeed seem identical. Both live and hunt in water and both are of similar size and coloring. Yet one is venomous (cottonmouth) and the other is non-venomous (brown water snake).

It is this factor (in addition to people’s ignorance), that has led to the senseless killing of brown water snakes every year. Obviously their subtle differences should be recognized if proper identification is to be achieved. These include:

Brown water snakes
• Usually live in large rivers, lakes, and medium-size creeks
• Swim and hunt below the water surface
• Frequently rest on tree limbs above the water
• Flee when disturbed
• Have round eyes; easily seen when looking at the top of the snake’s head

Cottonmouth/Water moccasins
• Usually live in small creeks, backwaters, swamps, and small ponds
• Swim or “tread” directly on the water surface
• Do not frequent tree limbs; at best they stay on the bank, or in the grass at the water’s edge
• Take a defensive posture when disturbed
• Have “vertical” or elliptical eyes; hidden when looking at the top of the snake’s head

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Running a wildlife removal business in the state of Florida gives me the chance to see all kinds of interesting snakes! Florida has about 45 species of snake, and I've seen 29 of them so far. I've always got my eye out for new species, and I love spotting rare snakes in Florida. I also have a thing for venomous snakes - they're not too common in FL, so I always enjoy the chance to see a poisonous serpent. I really like snakes, and I've never hurt or killed one. They're an important part of the ecosystem, and often persecuted. Still, if you don't want snakes in your house or on your property, and judging from the number of phone calls I receive regarding snake problems, you don't, then give me or a local snake expert in your area a call, and we can remove the snakes from your property for you. I use many snake control methods - from snake traps, to snake repellents, to habitat modification, but most of all, good old-fashioned capture and removal. If you want to learn more, please read my How To Get Rid of Snakes page.

AAAnimal Control is a privately owned wildlife removal and pest control business, located in Orlando Florida. I deal strictly with wild animals including snakes inside houses. I am not an extermination company, but a critter removal and control specialist. The above photos are some of the many that I've taken in the field over my years of work. Please email me if you have any questions about the above photographs, or any questions about wildlife problems or Florida snake removal issues.

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