Nerodia erythrogaster - (Forster, 1771)
Plain-bellied Watersnake
Other English Common Names: Plain-bellied Water Snake, Plainbelly Water Snake, plain-bellied watersnake
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Nerodia erythrogaster (Forster in Bossu, 1771) (TSN 174244)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103491
Element Code: ARADB22020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Reptiles - Snakes
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Reptilia Squamata Colubridae Nerodia
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B90COL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Nerodia erythrogaster
Taxonomic Comments: Geographic patterns of mtDNA variation are not concordant with any of the described subspecies (Makowsky et al. (2010). Accordingly, Crother et al. (in Crother 2012) did not recognize subspecies.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Dec2005
Global Status Last Changed: 30Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (07Dec2005)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S5), Delaware (S1), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S1), Kansas (S5), Kentucky (S4), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S2S3), Michigan (SNR), Mississippi (S5), Missouri (S5), New Mexico (S2), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S4)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Subspecies neglecta is listed by USFWS as Threatened in the northern portion of its range (Federal Register, 29 January 1997).
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R3 - North Central
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The range extends from southern Delaware and southeastern Maryland to northern Florida, west through Georgia and Alabama to southeastern New Mexico and western Texas, thence northward to northeastern Kansas and western Missouri, southward to central Nuevo Leon, Mexico; north in the Mississippi and Ohio river systems to central Illinois and southern Indiana; disjunct populations in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Durango, and Zacatecas; records from West Virginia and Pennsylvania are erroneous; a record from New Jersey probably is based on human introduction (McCranie 1990, Gibbons and Dorcas 2004). Elevational range extends from sea level to 2,042 meters on the Mexican Plateau.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a very large number of occurrences or subpopulations (see map in McCranie 1990).

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but undoubtedly exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat destruction and/or "human contact" has extirpated this species from some parts of its former range (McCranie 1990), particularly in the north-central part of the range (Great Lakes states; see information for subspecies neglecta).

Apparent range expansion accompanied impoundment of a river in Missouri (see McCranie 1990). This species can successfully colonize and establish populations in reclamation ponds in formerly strip-mined areas (Keck 1998).

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are relatively stable or declining at a rate of less than 10 percent over 10 years or three generations.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Declines have occurred in the north-central part of the range (see information for subspecies neglecta).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) The range extends from southern Delaware and southeastern Maryland to northern Florida, west through Georgia and Alabama to southeastern New Mexico and western Texas, thence northward to northeastern Kansas and western Missouri, southward to central Nuevo Leon, Mexico; north in the Mississippi and Ohio river systems to central Illinois and southern Indiana; disjunct populations in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Durango, and Zacatecas; records from West Virginia and Pennsylvania are erroneous; a record from New Jersey probably is based on human introduction (McCranie 1990, Gibbons and Dorcas 2004). Elevational range extends from sea level to 2,042 meters on the Mexican Plateau.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NM, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
DE Sussex (10005)
KY Butler (21031), Caldwell (21033), Christian (21047), Crittenden (21055), Daviess (21059), Hancock (21091), Henderson (21101), Hopkins (21107), Jefferson (21111)*, Livingston (21139), Logan (21141), McLean (21149), Muhlenberg (21177), Ohio (21183), Union (21225), Webster (21233)
NM Eddy (35015)
OK Adair (40001), Atoka (40005), Ellis (40045), Latimer (40077), Muskogee (40101), Sequoyah (40135)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Chincoteague (02040303)+, Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva (02080111)+
05 Middle Green (05110003)+, Rough (05110004)+, Lower Green (05110005)+, Pond (05110006)+, Silver-Little Kentucky (05140101)+*, Salt (05140102)+*, Lower Ohio-Little Pigeon (05140201)+, Highland-Pigeon (05140202)+, Lower Ohio-Bay (05140203)+, Tradewater (05140205)+
11 Lower Canadian-Deer (11090201)+, Dirty-Greenleaf (11110102)+, Robert S. Kerr Reservoir (11110104)+, Muddy Boggy (11140103)+, Kiamichi (11140105)+
13 Upper Pecos-Black (13060011)+, Delaware (13070002)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Help
Basic Description: A water snake.
Reproduction Comments: Gives birth to 5-27 young, August-October (Fitch 1970).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, MEDIUM RIVER
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: This snake occurs in a wide array of aquatic/wetland habitats, generally with permanent or semipermanent water, such as forested and shrubby swamps, marshes, edges of ponds and lakes, ditches, and slow streams. It often basks or rests in water-edge vegetation. It wanders far from water, especially during warm wet weather. Hibernatation sites are underground, under rockpiles, etc.
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Eats mainly fishes and frogs; also tadpoles, salamanders, crayfish, and other aquatic invertebrates (Mount 1975, Minton 1972, Ashton and Ashton 1981).
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Active from March to October in north, all year in south except during cold weather (Collins 1982, Minton 1972, Tennant 1984). Basks by day, forages in evening and at night (Collins 1982, Tennant 1984).
Length: 158 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Medium And Large Colubrid Snakes

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that snakes rarely if ever cross successfully; major river, lake, pond, or deep marsh (this barrier pertains only to upland species and does not apply to aquatic or wetland snakes); densely urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Available information on movements of colubrid snakes is limited to a small minority of species. These data indicate that nearly all species have home ranges smaller or much smaller than 25 ha (e.g., less than 3 ha, Pituophis catenifer in California, Rodriguez-Robles 2003), with some up to about 75 ha (Heterodon platirhinos, average 50 ha, Plummer and Mills 2000), and the largest up to 225 ha in the biggest colubrids (Drymarchon, summer mean 50-100 ha, USFWS 1998).

Radiotelemetry data for Pantherophis indicate that residents of hibernacula that are 1-2 km apart (with suitable intervening habitat) probably interbreed (Prior et al. 1997, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead 2002). However, "evidence of genetic structure even over short distances (e.g., 2-20 km) implies that gene flow among rat snake populations can be easily disrupted" (Prior et al. 1997). Loughheed et al. (1999) found evidence of substantial genetic exchange among local hibernacula (< 6 km apart), but gene flow over distances of 10s of km appears to be substantially less. Based on extensive radio-tracking data, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead (2002) found that home range size of Pantherophis averaged 18.5 ha and ranged up to 93 ha; based on the most mobile individuals, Pantherophis from hibernacula up to 8 km apart can come together for mating. Pantherophis and probably other colubrids exhibit high fidelity to hibernacula and shift even to nearby sites only rarely (Prior et al. 2001).

Many of the several studies that report small home ranges for colubrids did not employ methods (e.g., radio telemetry) suitable for detecting full annual or multi-annual home range size, dispersal, or other long-distance movements, so these may have yielded underestimates of home ranges or activity areas.

At least some colubrids, including medium-sized species such as garter snakes, not uncommonly move between areas up to a few kilometers apart, and several species make extensive movements of up to several kilometers, so separation distances of 1-2 km for suitable habitat are too small for medium-sized and large colubrids.

A separation distance of 10 km for suitable habitat was selected as most appropriate for snakes assigned to this Specs Group because it seems generally unlikely that two locations separated by less than 10 km of suitable habitat would represent distinct occurrences.

For the purposes of these occurrence specifications, upland habitat is regarded as unsuitable habitat for aquatic and wetland snakes. For upland snakes, shallow or patchy wetlands are treated as unsuitable habitat whereas large deepwater habitats (subjective determination) are barriers.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 12Feb2013
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: Separation distance for suitable habitat was changed from 5 km to 10 km based on comments from Dale Jackson (12 Feb 2013).
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 07Dec2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 07Dec2005
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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