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We live on the shore of Kentucky Lake in Middle Tennessee and kayak often. A common snake here is the Northern watersnake. Observing several of these snakes over a period of ten years, I am puzzled by their behaviour in several respects.

The snakes appear in March when it's still cold, much earlier than other snakes. They repeatedly return to the dock or the pontoon boat even after being forcibly removed. The other snakes here are shy and usually don't return once frightened away. This year, twice, Northern watersnakes have followed my kayak. They change course towards me and speed up to keep up.

My basic question is, Why would a snake follow a kayak?

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  • $\begingroup$ likely they are trying to sun themselves especially in cold weather. The water is cold and they immediately try to get back on the boat. becasue they are not as afraid of you as other snakes they are harder to discourage. They also probably can't tell the difference between your boat/dock and a log. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 21 '17 at 1:22
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likely they are trying to sun themselves especially in cold weather. The water is cold and they immediately try to get back on the boat. becasue they are not as afraid of you as other snakes they are harder to discourage. They also probably can't tell the difference between your boat/dock and a log.

as for following you I can see three possible answers. D's answer about eddies might be it.

Or they may be doing the same thing birds do with tractors, your kayak and paddles stir up the water and they are after the animals your movement scares up. A lot of small predators have learned following human machines can be a good way to find an easy meal.

Or they might hope you are a crocodile that will scare up small animals or leave scraps they can eat. Answering Hans will help understand what is happening.

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I used to work with snakes, and Northern watersnakes always seemed to be the most aggressive to me, but only if disturbed.

As for them following you, the most likely reason is that your kayak was creating an eddy, supplying the snake with an easy route to follow / path of least resistance.

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    $\begingroup$ So the question for @Rebecca is once you stopping moving your kayak, do they still move towards you or scatter? $\endgroup$ – Hans Sep 24 '16 at 2:08

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