When you jump into a lake or kayak down a river, you probably don’t think of snakes being nearby. That said, they might be. Certain species of snakes can live in or near ponds, lakes, rivers, swamps, and marshes. But, can snakes bite underwater? Let’s take a deep dive.

snakes bite underwater

Can Snakes Bite You Underwater?

If you’re interested in swimming where you know snakes have been seen, you probably want to know all you can. Snakes can bite you underwater, but usually only if they’re provoked or if they feel threatened. In the Tropical Journal of Medicine and Hygiene, researchers studied 100 sea-snake bite patients who visited a local hospital. They found that over 80% of patients were fishermen who had been in the water. Since bites were on their lower limbs, researchers concluded that they were bitten after stepping on a snake in the water. Regardless of whether the snake is venomous, it can still bite. As recommended by the University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, always leave snakes alone if you come across one in the water or on land.

Which Snakes Are Found in Water?

Besides sea-snakes, there are two common snakes that can live in or near water - the cottonmouth (water moccasin) and the water snake. Not only can snakes bite underwater, but water moccasins join a list of more than 20 species of venomous snakes in the United States making them even more of a threat. It’s important to note though, that most bites occur when snakes are picked up or fending off an attack. Therefore, attempting to handle a snake of any kind is not a smart thing to do. For example, Northern Water snakes bite too, and though they’re not venomous, they house bacteria in their mouths. The bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause complications. Always be cautious when near snakes to avoid being bitten.

Do Poisonous Water Snakes Swim and Float?

Though all snakes swim on top of the water, poisonous water snakes can float when they stop. On the contrary, non-venomous snakes sink below the surface when stationary. Their head is the only part of their body that can be seen above the water.

Are Water Moccasins Aggressive?

As one of the most well-known venomous snakes, water moccasins are feared across the globe. But, how aggressive are they? University of Georgia researchers conducted a study to find out. For this test, they subjected each water moccasin to one or more of the following conditions: 1) stood beside it with a ‘‘snakeproof’’ boot touching its body, 2) stepped on the snake at midbody with enough force to restrain but not injure it, or 3) picked up the snake at midbody with a pair of 1-m snake tongs. They reported that of 45 tested, 23 attempted to escape, 28 of 36 tested used threat tactics and defensive displays, and only 13 of 36 bit a fake hand used in testing. The findings question conventional thinking about their aggressive behavior. Though water moccasins are not likely to be aggressive unless provoked or stepped on, you should always take caution when in the presence of any snake. If you spot one on your property, call a wildlife professional.