It took a few seconds for us to unravel the scene in the above photo but it eventually became clear it was a large northern water snake eating a fish and a smaller northern water snake clinging close to the larger snake. Although we happened upon the scene at this stage of the battle, I’m fairly certain the fish was a catfish. To give credit where it is due, my 12-year-old son Will was the one who discovered the scene and called the rest of us over.
The snake had pulled the fish onto the shore and the fish continued to fight with everything it had. It was quite the battle and we watched for a good 15 minutes. Not having my camera equipment with me, I did the best I could with my iPhone while at the same time being respectful of the natural scene unfolding. The struggle took place a few weeks ago at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Connecticut, along the same shore where I often launch my water tube for a relaxing day on the lake. Guess I’ll watch where I’m stepping next time I do that.
Northern water snakes are large and intimidating looking, especially when moving through the water, but are non-venomous and harmless. They do bite but only when antagonized. They aren’t going to aggressively pursue a human and attack. They are often mistaken for copperheads or water moccasins (cottonmouths). Copperheads live in Connecticut but are snakes of the forest and mountains. Water moccasins are snakes of the southeastern U.S. and do not range into New England.
After about half an hour the snake was able to completely swallow the fish. By that time, the other snake had disappeared. The larger snake, complete with a bulging body behind its head, retreated to the water and hid under a rock along the shore. I’m pretty sure it’s the same rock I use for footing as I launch my tube. Good thing water snakes are harmless.
Here are some more photos to get you ready for summer …
Below, the marking of the harmless northern water snake.