Graham's Crayfish Snake (Regina grahamii)
This semi-aquatic species is plain brown with a broad yellowish to cream stripe along the margin of the belly. A slightly lighter dorsal stripe bordered with darker stripes may be visible, but is not prominent. The belly is bordered on each side with a dark stripe, but is otherwise relatively plain and cream colored; a single, faint row of dots may be visible down the center of the belly. Scales are strongly keeled.
This species can be easily confused with other "watersnakes" of the genera Regina and Nerodia. When simply consulting a range map is not sufficient, examination of the belly--which is bordered on each side with a dark stripe and may have a central row of faint dots--can easily distinguish it from the similar-looking Gulf Swampsnake and Queensnake. The belly can also distinguish it from several species of Nerodia. In addition, species of the genus Nerodia are typically patterned, but not striped. Given that the venomous Cottonmouth shares the same habitat and, to the untrained eye, may superficially resemble this species, caution should take precedence over curiosity when attempting to establish identification.
This species is also known as a Crawfish Snake, or more generally Watersnake.
This species is largely aquatic and known to inhabit lowland habitats with slower moving or still waters.
Although this species is more active at night, it is somewhat more conspicuous in its daytime basking behaviors than the other species of Regina. Tree limbs just above the water provide perfect basking perchs. This species is wary and will drop into the water with little provocation. For protective retreats, crayfish burrows and similar hideaways are utilized.
The life history for this species is relatively well known (see Trauth, et. al.). In general, breeding occurs in the spring with females giving birth to live young in summer or early fall.
While a variety of aquatic prey is documented, this species is a crayfish specialist, with a preference toward those that have freshly molted.
This species is an active forager, prodding and poking around its aquatic habitat in search of crayfish. Prey is seized and subdued without constriction.
The primary defense for this species is camouflage and nocturnal behaviors. When alarmed, especially while basking, it will make a quick escape into the water and hide. Reports indicate this species is relatively docile, but it may flatten out and musk if captured.
This species is considered rare by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The draining of wetlands poses a danger to this species.