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The salt marsh snake is a very interesting animal.  In the pure form, they are completely different in appearance from any other water snake.  Whereas most water snakes are either banded, blotched, or solid colored, the Gulf saltmarsh snake is striped.  Until recently, they were classified as a subspecies of the southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata).  It has recently been shown that there is very limited gene flow with the between the two populations; they are now classified as a separate species.

The Gulf saltmarsh snake survives where very few other native Louisiana snakes venture.   They thrive in the brackish waters along the coast.  They do not drink salt water but get most of the water they need from their prey.  They do hybridize with other species of water snakes in areas that are disturbed (usually by storms).  The hybrids are usually found in the intergrade zone between brackish and fresh water marshes.

Natural history data is very scarce for this species.  This is due to the fact that their home is very inaccesible.  Many of the marsh areas where they are found can only be accessed by boat.  The salt marsh snakes seem to like the edges of the vegetation clumps and quickly flee into the open water when disturbed.  They do not appear to have a specialized diet. In addition to the normal food items of fish and frogs, they are also known to eat crabs.  Gulf salt marsh snakes are preyed upon by crabs, egrets, and herons.

A WORD OF CAUTION for those who want to venture into the saltmarsh snakes' territory:   The mosquitos are as big as 747's!!!  They fly in well-formed squadrons and attack at the slightest provocation.  Just remember: exposed skin is a terrible thing to waste!

Additional source of information:
Myer, Patrick, A.  (1988).  The systematics of nerodia clarkii and nerodia fasciata. M.S. Thesis.  Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

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