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Reptiles of Ijams

The exposed limestone rock, shady forests, and damp leaf litter all work together to make an ideal reptile habitat at Ijams Nature Center. Whether you see reptiles sunning themselves, swimming in the ponds, or laying their eggs in loose soil, they are always a treat to find. Ijams boasts a variety of lizards, turtles, and snakes on the grounds. 

Northern Water Snake



The northern water snake has dark crossbands on its neck and dark blotches on the rest of its body. It is often misidentified as a cottonmouth or copperhead. As this snake ages, its color darkens and the pattern becomes obscure. Some individuals will become almost completely black. The belly also varies in color; it can be white, yellow, or gray, and usually has reddish or black crescents.


The northern water snake is nonvenomous and harmless to humans, but superficially resembles the venomous cottonmouth and is often killed unnecessarily as a result of mistaken identity. The two can be easily distinguished by morphological traits: the water snake has a longer, more slender body and a flattened head the same width as the neck, round pupils, and no heat-sensing pits. The cottonmouth has a fatter body, a wedge-shaped head with prominent venom glands that are wider than the neck, cat-like pupils, and heat-sensing pits between its eyes and nostrils.


Northern water snakes can be found in any pond at Ijams. They are most frequently found at the pond behind the Miller Building near the small wooden platform. They also can be seen basking in the sun on the irises growing in Lotus Pond.


Northern water snakes are among the most abundant reptiles at Ijams. This snake is a key member of the aquatic foodweb. They feed on amphibians, and their presence is a good indicator that Ijams’ ponds are clean enough to support good amphibian populations.

Species Seen at Ijams

The following Ijams iNaturalist page features several species found at Ijams. If you see one that's not on the list, please add it.

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