Gulf Salt Marsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii)
- The gulf salt marsh snake grows to a length of 15 to 30 inches (38 to 76 cm). Distinguishing characteristics include two longitudinal tan or yellow stripes on each side of the body, making up the dorsal (top) pattern of the snake. It has a reddish-brown or grayish-black ventral (bottom) color with one to three rows of large pale spots along the center of the belly. This snake is flat headed.
- Life History
Small fish, crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates make up the diet of the gulf salt marsh snake. Its predators include egrets, herons and crabs. At three years, the gulf salt marsh snake reaches sexual maturity. Its mating season is in early spring, and it gives birth to live snakes (as opposed to laying eggs) in July and August. Young snakes are 7 to 9 inches (17 to 22 cm) long at birth, and live up to 20 years.
As a way to avoid predators, salt marsh snakes are nocturnal (active at night) and often hide in shoreline debris and in crab burrows in the mud or sand. The gulf salt marsh snake does not have salt glands to help rid itself of the salt it eats so it must be very careful not to drink salt water. It gets moisture from rainfall and from the animals it eats.
- Just as the name indicates, gulf salt marsh snakes prefer brackish and saltwater estuaries, salt marshes and tidal mud flats.
- Gulf salt marsh snakes are found along the Gulf Coast.
- Because coastal wetlands are continuously being drained, filled, developed and contaminated, gulf salt marsh snakes run a serious risk of becoming threatened or endangered due to habitat loss. They are difficult to find, and we know relatively little about gulf salt marsh snakes. These snakes are often killed, along with other water snakes, out of fear of cottonmouths.