Okefenokee Watersnake Fight

I was paddling up the beautiful Suwannee, a blackwater river that is born within, and meanders throughout, the Okefenokee Swamp. Being overcast and cool, it was slow day for reptiles… as slow as the current that carried my canoe along. But on a sudden, I had that feeling. Birders know that feeling… a sense that somewhere nearby is a nice find.

Brown Water Snake, Nerodia taxispilota, coiled on a Cypress Tree branch in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. A large non-venomous snake with keeled scales. The Suwannee River Sill Recreation Area canoe and kayak trail. January 21, 2021. ©williamwisephoto.com

​I have no idea how I spotted it. Its long, coiled, brown body perfectly matched the twisted, tan cypress roots upon which it basked.  A Brown Watersnake! These thick, heavy-bodied snakes are often mis-identified as the venomous Cottonmouth, which lurks in the same habitat.

Although the watersnakes aren’t venomous, they are no less feisty.  Anyone who has had the experience of handling a watersnake knows their theatrics of writhing, striking, musking, and biting… anything to just be left alone! This individual didn’t disappoint in its performance.


Brown Watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. January 21, 2021. ©williamwisephoto.com  

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68688369

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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