I’ve said this before, snakes have been putting on a show in the Wetlands. The one pictured at right sat out in the open for quite a while at the foot of the boardwalk near the main Black Bear Overlook while many Museum guests got great looks at it. Understandably, upon first viewing this snake many folks thought it a Copperhead, or Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin). It’s neither. It’s a Northern Water Snake. The pattern on water snakes can vary considerably and can even be absent on some older individuals, so you can’t go by pattern alone to differentiate between these snakes.
To my knowledge, Cottonmouths don’t occur in the Piedmont. Although they can certainly swim up river (and portage around falls and dams) if they have a desire to do so. They’re pretty much restricted to the coastal plain. Copperheads are more likely to be seen in an upland habitat. Both Cottonmouths and Copperheads are usually more stout, or heavier bodied, than typical water snakes. The water snakes in the Wetlands are non-venomous.