My sincere apologies and gratitude to Sue Wetmore, who took today’s photograph of the mating Northern Watersnakes. Sue Elliott is also an extremely talented naturalist, but she did not take this picture!
Active both day and night, Northern Watersnakes can be found basking near or swimming in ponds, rivers, lakes and marshes in the Northeast. Late May through June is the peak of their mating season, when they engage in courtship rituals prior to mating. Initially the male approaches a female side by side and rubs his body against hers, sometimes simultaneously using his chin to rub her head, neck or body. When they are ready to mate, the male coils his tail around the female’s body and tail in an attempt to align his cloaca (single opening for digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts) with hers. Once that is accomplished he inserts one of his two hemipenes (penises) and releases sperm. Four to six months later she gives birth to between 12 and 60 live snakes, each of which measures between six and twelve inches. (Thanks and credit go to Sue Wetmore for this remarkable photograph.)
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