False Water Cobra

False Water Cobra


Throughout  Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Northern Argentina. There may also be populations living in Colombia and French Guiana.


Generally lives in wet, humid and marsh land areas and lives a semi- aquatic lifestyle, typically within the tropical rainforests that are common within its range.


This is a medium to large sized snake with large eyes with circular pupils providing it with good daytime vision. The tongue is black. It is olive green or brown in coloration, with dark spots and bands covering much of its body. The background coloring and banding generally becomes darker towards the tail. This coloring gives the snake effective camouflage in its rainforest habitat. The ventral scales are yellow or brown, spotted with dark flecks that create three dotted lines which appear to merge towards the tail.

False Water Cobra

The false water cobra is very active and inquisitive and spends much of its day climbing, burrowing and even swimming. It is primarily active during the day and forages for food on the ground. Once it successfully captures its prey it uses both envenomation and constriction to subdue it.

The temperament of the false water cobra varies greatly between specimens. Some are very docile and reluctant to bite, while others may be defensive and intimidating. It is a venomous snake species and although they are rear fanged and have poor delivery their venom has been shown to be similar to that of the timber rattlesnake, however it is unable to produce this highly potent venom in a large quantity.

The common name, false water cobra refers to its ability to flatten its head, similar to a cobra as a defensive reaction to make it look larger and more intimidating. Unlike the true cobra, the false water cobra stays in a horizontal position when it flattens its head, rather than standing in a vertical position. It can flatten not only its neck but also lower down the body, which is not possible for a true cobra.


This snake is oviparous (egg laying). Clutch size may include as many as 40 eggs. At hatching the young are about 15 inches long and are brightly banded but these markings disappear as it matures. Once hatched the young are ready to feed and fend for themselves.

Interesting Facts:
  • The preference by this snake species to reside in a wetland habitat contributes to its common name of false water cobra.
  • It is not related to the various cobras of the Elapidae family. The false water cobra is probably more closely related to the gopher snakes within its same Colubridae family.
  • The false water cobra is also know as the “Brazilian smooth snake” or “South American cobra”
  • The family Colubridae, to which the false water cobra belongs, contains 70 percent of the known species of snakes, with more than 1700 species worldwide
  • Although adult false water cobras feed on frogs and toads, the primary predator of the juvenile snakes is the Amazonian horned frog.
False Water Cobra

Like all snake species, this snake helps to keep populations of potentially harmful rodents in check. The false water cobra’s population is currently considered stable. However, these snakes are more and more commonly being removed from their native habitat by humans selling them for the pet trade.

False Water Cobra
Class: reptiles
Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Hydrodynastes
Species: gigas
Length: Maximum adult length 10 feet
Average Lifespan: Up to 20 years
Wild Diet: Fish, frogs, toads, rodents and other small mammals
Zoo Diet: Rats
Predators: Juvenile false water cobras are preyed upon the Amazon horned frogs and some raptors.
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building

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