Northern Watersnake Swallowing Prey / by Todd Henson

Full view of the Northern Watersnake eating prey.

On a recent hike through a wildlife refuge I stumbled upon a Northern Watersnake on a rocky beach at the edge of the bay. After creating a couple photographs I noticed it was in the process of swallowing some form of prey. This was the first time I’d seen this in person.

Moving in a little closer to the Northern Watersnake.

Wanting a better look I slowly moved in closer, photographing as I did. I moved slowly and only got as close as I felt I could without stressing the snake. I never want to overly stress an animal when photographing.

Closer still, approaching the Northern Watersnake.

The snake never moved as I approached, all its energy focused on ingesting whatever it was it had captured. Even as I moved closer I still couldn’t identify what it was eating. If you can figure it out please let me know in the comments below. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society Northern Watersnakes primarily eat fish and amphibians, but do sometimes eat other prey such as small mammals.

I approached as close to the Northern Watersnake as I thought I could without causing it stress.

The light was difficult for these photographs. The snake’s head and the prey were in shadow, and the body was in full sun. I tried to balance the exposure in Lightroom, darkening the rocks while bringing out what details I could in the shadows. In these photos I wasn’t attempting to create artwork, but instead to document the species and try to identify what it was ingesting.

Zooming in on the head of the Northern Watersnake, its mouth open wide around its prey.

A closer look at the patterns on the body of the Northern Watersnake. They are more distinct when wet, but often become less so as it dries.

Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

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