Is it poisonous?

Venomous Water Snakes of Ohio: A Comprehensive Guide


When people think about the state of Ohio, they may not immediately think of venomous snakes. However, Ohio is home to a few species of water snakes that possess venomous bites. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the venomous water snakes native to Ohio, their characteristics, habitats, and how to stay safe around them.

Species of Venomous Water Snakes in Ohio

Ohio is home to two primary types of venomous water snakes: the Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) and the Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix). While neither of these species are particularly aggressive, it’s essential to know how to identify them and keep a safe distance to avoid any dangerous encounters.

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

The Northern Water Snake is a widespread species found throughout the eastern and central United States, including Ohio. Although not as venomous as some other species, their bites can still be quite painful and cause localized swelling. They can be identified by their dark bands on a tan or brown body and a distinctive flattened head. Northern Water Snakes are often found near water sources, such as ponds, streams, and rivers, where they prey on fish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures.

Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)

While Copperheads are primarily a land-dwelling snake, they are also known to inhabit areas near water, making them a concern for Ohio residents who frequent bodies of water. These venomous snakes are easily distinguished by their reddish-brown, copper-colored heads and the hourglass-shaped markings on their bodies. Copperheads are ambush predators, often lying in wait near water sources to catch their prey, which includes fish, frogs, rodents, and other small animals.

Habitats and Behavior

Both the Northern Water Snake and Copperhead prefer habitats close to water, which is why they are referred to as water snakes. Copperheads are often more prevalent in the southern part of Ohio, while the Northern Water Snake can be found across the state. These snakes are usually not aggressive to humans unless threatened or provoked. If encountered, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance and avoid attempting to handle them.

Staying Safe Around Venomous Water Snakes

When venturing into areas where venomous water snakes might be present, it’s crucial to take precautions. Here are some tips to stay safe around these reptiles:

  • Wear long pants and sturdy shoes to protect your legs and feet from potential snake bites.
  • Stick to well-traveled paths and avoid tall grass, brush, and piles of rocks where snakes may be hiding.
  • Be cautious when stepping near the water’s edge, as these snakes often hide along the shoreline.
  • Do not attempt to handle or capture venomous water snakes; instead, give them plenty of space and observe from a safe distance.


While encountering venomous water snakes in Ohio is relatively uncommon, it’s essential to know how to identify them and what precautions to take in their presence. By understanding the Northern Water Snake and Copperhead’s characteristics and habitats, you can appreciate Ohio’s unique wildlife while keeping safe from potential harm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are there any other venomous snakes in Ohio?

Besides the Copperhead and the Northern Water Snake, Ohio is also home to the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, which is classified as a threatened species. However, it is primarily a land-dwelling snake and less commonly encountered near water sources.

What should I do if bitten by a venomous water snake?

If bitten by a venomous water snake, seek immediate medical attention. While their venom is usually not life-threatening to humans, it can still cause significant pain, swelling, and other complications. Do not attempt to treat the bite yourself, and keep the affected limb immobilized to limit venom spread.

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