Mississippi Green Watersnake

The Mississippi Green Watersnake is a plain water snake and occurs in the cypress swamps of extreme western Tennessee.

Description: A medium-sized, semi-aquatic snake (30.0 to 45.0 inches in length) having a dark greenish-brown color with small, obscure dark markings.   Has distinctive row of scales between eye and lip plates.   Belly is dark gray covered with pale yellow half-moons.   Young have more distinct dorsal markings.

Similar Species:  Cottonmouths have facial pits and vertical pupils. All other water snakes have distinctive stripes, spots, or blotches; and lack scales between eyes and upper lip.

Habitat: Prefers the quiet waters of swamps, wetlands, river sloughs, and lake edges; frequently found around cypress or tupelo swamps.

Diet: Primarily eats fishes, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, and salamanders.

Breeding information: Adults mate in spring. Females give live birth to 15-25 young in the summer. Larger females produce more young.

Status in Tennessee: The Mississippi Green Watersnake is listed as “In Need of Management” by TWRA, and considered extremely rare and critically imperiled by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.   Populations have been drastically impacted by the loss of native cypress swamps.

Fun Facts:

  • Mississippi Green Watersnakes are ovoviviparous, meaning the females retain their eggs in the oviduct during the development of the young. Thus, young are born “live” and completely developed.
  • May be seen basking in branches overhanging water.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Around the edges and backwaters of Reelfoot Lake.


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Johnson, T.R. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.