Q: We live next to a creek in Decatur. My son loves to explore the creek but we have found that there is a snake in residence. Can you help me identify it?
A: I’m no snake expert but Jim Rogers at Nearly Native Nursery is a herpetologist from way back. He says this is a Northern Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon. It is totally harmless. This snake eats a wider variety of fish and amphibians than any other North American water snake.
If you get close enough to see him/her again, notice the round pupils. This distinguishes common non-poisonous snakes from their more dangerous relatives.
If you’d rather not see any snakes, teach your son to carry a “snake stick” with him when he goes exploring. Banging it on fallen tree trunks and on the ground will cause any snake in the vicinity to skeedaddle. And it will give your son a great way to use his pent up energy in a positive manner.