There are two types of mud snake, the eastern and western, native to the southern United States. Placid and non-venomous, this snake is semi-aquatic, preferring slow moving or still waters, such as swamps, marshes, ponds, and sluggish streams. The mud snake has a fearsome appearance, reaching up to 6.5 feet (1.9 meters) in length, with a thick body which is mainly black with a repeating pattern of bright red patches along the sides, which extend across the underbelly.
Despite the appearance of this snake, it is actually not aggressive. If captured, it prods the assailant with the end of its tail, which has a hard, pointed collection of scales. Although the end of the tail is sharp and hard, it does not penetrate the skin, contains no toxins, and poses no danger to humans.
This snakes variety lives close to water with a ready food supply. Being nocturnal, the mud snake remains hidden and mainly motionless in areas of dense foliage along the waters edge during the day, becoming very active and hunting during the hours of darkness. Shy and very wary of humans, the mud snake seldom lives in areas frequently disturbed by human activity or in areas of human habitation. Mud snakes are rarely kept as a pets in part because of their shy nature. They become easily stressed by too much activity and very rarely thrive or survive for long periods in a captive environment. This is also due to the very restricted diet of the mature snake, which is very difficult to replicate in captivity.
Adult mud snakes have a diet which consists primarily of two specific salamander species, amphiumas and sirens. If left with no alternative, the adult mud snake will seek an alternative salamander species or occasionally frogs. Juvenile mud snakes have a much more varied diet, eating tadpoles and small fish as well as a wide variety of salamander and newt species.
An egg layer as opposed to a live bearer, the female mud snake nests in hidden hollows and crevices close to water, often beneath the ground. Little is known about the breeding and rearing habits of these snakes because of their secretive nature. One theory holds that a single female mud snake is able to lay up to 100 eggs; another contends that the often large numbers of eggs come from many females, and that the mud snake uses communal nests. A female provides care and protection for eggs until they hatch, which can take up to three months.