A pair of Northern water snakes or Common Watersnakes.

The Most Snake Infested Lakes in New York

New York is a state with diverse landscapes. From mountains to islands to bustling cities, New York is full of a variety of life. One life form typically not associated with New York is snakes. However, there are snakes in New York, and they are particularly fond of the lake areas. Snakes are capable of swimming, and there are semi-aquatic snakes that thrive on land and in the water. Here, we will explore the most snake-infested lakes in New York and the snakes that live in them.

Snake Species in New York


Common garter snakes typically display yellow stripes on a black, brown, or green background.

Common garter snakes typically display yellow stripes on a black, brown, or green background.

Compared to southern states such as Texas, New York has few snakes. In total, New York is home to 17 snake species, and it is not common for New Yorkers to encounter snakes. The snakes are commonly found in parts of the state with water, such as in the Hudson Valley and Bergen Swamp. Out of the seventeen snakes, only three are venomous. The venomous snakes are the copperhead, timber rattlesnake, and the easter massasauga rattlesnake. The most common snake species to see in New York are the common garter snake, the black rat snake, and the northern watersnake. 

The Black Rat Snake

Black rat snake with its tongue extended.
Black rat snake with its tongue extended.

The black rat snake can reach a length of 6 feet and is the longest snake in New York. These snakes are blackish and dark and have space between their scales, giving them a shiny appearance. While they can be around water, they are also found in barns and buildings. They can easily climb into attics and often hunt rodents. They are also often found in the woods, slithering up trees. 

Common Watersnake

Northern water snakes in den, bed, or pit during breeding season. When breeding, they coil up to reproduce.
Northern water snakes in den, bed, or pit during the breeding season, when they coil up to reproduce.

The Northern watersnake, also known as the common watersnake, is the most common type of watersnake found in New York. It can be different colors from grey to green, and is clearly identified by the black dorsal blotches. The species grows up to 2 feet and isn't the biggest snake. However, what the common watersnake lacks in size, it makes up for in speed. These snakes are fast and usually make a quick escape into the water at the first sign of humans. If you are swimming in a lake, you don't have to be too scared of water snakes. Bites from these species are rare, and the snakes are nonvenomous. 

Snake Infested Lakes

Echo Lake

Northern water snake basking on a log in the pond.

Northern water snake basking on a log in the pond.

A lake where the northern watersnake is commonly found is Echo Lake. The lake is in the Catskill Mountains and covers 13 acres. There is an abundance of fish and amphibians in the lake. One of the most abundant fish in the lake is the brook and rainbow trout. These fish provide the watersnakes with a good food supply. The snakes will also eat amphibians when the fish population is significantly depleted. The fish are also an attractant for fishermen. The surrounding landscape is also a popular hiking spot. Hikers might spot a timber rattlesnake in the mountains around the lake in the warmer months. 

Lake Champlain

Timber rattlesnake with its mouth open.
Timber rattlesnake with its mouth open.

Another New York lake with rattlesnakes around is Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain sits between New York and Vermont and has some mountains around it. Split Rock Mountain is near the lake, and it is expected to see timber rattlesnakes here in the warmer months of the year. In recent years, there has been a rise in timber rattlesnake citings in this area. Some people suspect the rise in snakes is because of how climate change has affected their migratory routes.

Lake Champlain is 435 square miles. Its size has earned it the reputation as the Sixth Great Lake. In the lake's basin, the northern watersnake has an established population. 

Lake Erie

The highly endangered Lake Erie watersnake.

The highly endangered Lake Erie water snake.

Lake Erie is also a Great Lake and is the shallowest Great Lake in the United States. Part of the lake covers Canadian territory. The surface of the lake covers 9,910 square miles, making it the fourth largest Great Lake. Something unique about the lake is that it has a snake named after it, the Lake Erie Water Snake. This snake is mainly found on the western shore of Lake Erie and is the most abundant snake species in the lake. The population of the snake is around 12,000. 

There is some exciting folklore around snakes in Lake Erie. There is a tale that a giant serpent nicknamed Bessie lives in the lake. However, nobody has been able to confirm the legend. 

Oneida Lake

Eastern Massasauga is a small representative of the rattlesnake family.

Eastern Massasauga is a small representative of the rattlesnake family.

The largest lake in New York State is Oneida Lake. The lake has a surface area of 79.8 square miles. Though not geologically one of the Finger Lakes, Oneida Lake's unique position and shape have earned it the affectionate nickname of the 'thumb' of the Finger Lakes, highlighting its connection to this renowned region of New York. The average depth of the lake is 22 feet. However, while the lake is deep, this doesn't deter snakes from swimming. Northern water snakes are often found in the lake. Around the lake, the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is commonly sited. This is important to be aware of if you are camping at the Oneida Lake Swamp area. 

Canopus Lake

Close-up of a black rat snake sticking out its forked tongue.
Close-up of a black rat snake sticking out its forked tongue.

Canopus Lake is a manmade lake known for its abundance of snakes. The lake is in Northern Putnam County and covers 66 acres. It is a popular spot for outdoor recreation such as swimming, boating, and enjoying other water activities. There is an abundance of fish in the lake, which serves as a food source for snakes. Commonly found snakes in the area include the northern watersnakes and black rat snakes. 

New York's Most Infested Lakes

These are New York's most snake-infested lakes. From Lake Erie to Echo Lake, there are many snake-infested waterbodies, particularly ones home to the common water snake. Another spot to encounter snakes is around lakes, on a hike, or at a campsite. Most of the snakes commonly seen are harmless and don't have venom. However, if you encounter a rattlesnake, you'll want to keep your distance just to be safe.


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