Southern United States and Northern Mexico; southeastern California eastward to Texas and southward to Zacatecas and northern Veracruz. Isolated populations exist in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Usually found near water sources including streams, ponds, swamps, marshes, flooded areas, and springs. Habitats in northern regions include grasslands, savannas, and suburban gardens. Habitats in southern regions include both wet and dry tropical forests. Diet includes frogs, fish, lizards, tadpoles, and invertebrates.
Dorsum either yellow, brown or tan with black markings resembling a checkered pattern. Yellow stripes run down back and along sides. Sides of head exhibit dark markings. Venter can be light or display dark markings. If picked up, usually will excrete musk and its cloacal contents. Females bear live young any time from May to October. Average total length is between 20 to 28 inches (51 - 71 cm).
Learn more with Schechter Natural History's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians