Northern Water Snakes (Nerodia sipedon) are non-poisonous snakes which, as their name implies, tend to be found in the Northeast, in and around water. Females (bottom snake in photo) are heavier and longer than males (as long as five feet) and grow much faster. Since the end of May, Northern Water Snakes have been engaging in courtship rituals and mating. The male snake (top snake in photo) begins by crawling alongside a female while he rubs his body along hers. It is not unusual for more than one male to court her at the same time, with one eventually achieving copulation by twisting and coiling his tail around her body and tail as he attempts to get their cloacae aligned.
Northern Water Snakes are ovoviviparous – the female’s eggs incubate inside her body. The larger the female, the greater the number of live young she’s likely to produce in late August or September. Northern Water Snakes have between 12 and 60 young — judging from the size of the pictured female she’ll have a large litter. (Photo by Jeff Mazur)
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.)