The water moccasin, or cottonmouth snake, is a highly venomous pit viper that lives much of its life close to the water.
One of the few semi-aquatic snakes in the world is the cottonmouth. They occasionally swim in both freshwater and saltwater environments. The northern cottonmouth snake and the Florida cottonmouth are the two main species. The identity, habitat, diet, lifespan, and size of both species, as well as other fascinating information, will all be covered in this article.
Cottonmouth Amazing Facts
Among the many names for the cottonmouth are “water moccasin,” “swamp moccasin,” “rusty moccasin,” and “black moccasin.” A moccasin is primarily a kind of leather shoe or slipper.
Although the cottonmouth snake has the option to mate at any time of the year, its reproductive season is typically between April and May. The male cottonmouth will engage in a fight dance in which he slithers back and forth and waves his tail to entice a mate. Males will also compete with one another to approach females. It is believed that cottonmouths are monogamous.
After a gestation period of five months, females will typically give birth to five to nine live young at a time (16 is often the maximum number). Only two or three young often survive to adulthood due to predators. A female reaches full sexual maturity around the age of three (the sexual maturity of a male is unknown). If they make it, they often live for 20 to 25 years.
Young or baby cottonmouth snakes are preyed upon by eagles, egrets, raccoons, longnose gars, largemouth bass, and snapping turtles, among other animals. Contrarily, adult cottonmouths have extremely few predators.
Female cottonmouth snakes can reproduce asexually and sexually. This means that they can have offspring even without the presence of men, however at the expense of genetic diversity.
Where to Find Them
In various aquatic habitats in the southeastern United States, including cypress swamps, river floodplains, lakes, bays, and marshes, cottonmouths can be seen all year long.The northern cottonmouth and the Florida cottonmouth have some overlap in Florida, and their range extends all the way up to southern Illinois and west to Texas.They enjoy spending the day in the sun on logs, rocks, and branches that are close to the water’s edge. The cottonmouth snake’s home range is determined by its size and sex (males often have greater home ranges).
Agkistrodon piscivorus is the scientific name for the northern cottonmouth, whereas Agkistrodon conanti is the term for the Florida cottonmouth. In reference to the appearance of the fangs, the genus name Agkistrodon basically means hook tooth (or a tooth like a fishhook). Conanti is named in honor of renowned herpetologist Roger Conant, whilst piscivorous, the species name, roughly translates to “fish devourer” or “fish eater.”
Only in 2015 was the distinction between Florida cottonmouth and northern cottonmouth made. Before that, the eastern, western, and Florida cottonmouths were considered as three distinct subspecies. However, based on a DNA study, it was decided to completely abolish the eastern/western divide and to classify the Florida cottonmouth snake as its own species.
The Florida and northern cottonmouths are the only remaining species; there are no subspecies. Both these species share a close relationship with copperheads and cantils within the Agkistrodon genus.
Types of Cottonmouth
The two primary types of cottonmouths are. Although there aren’t many distinctions between them in terms of appearance and habits, Northern Cottonmouths do have darker scales.
The southeast of the United States is where you can find Eastern Cottonmouths and Northern Cottonmouths.
Florida Cottonmouth – In the American Midwest, you can find Florida Cottonmouths.
History and Evolution
In the United States, the Cottonmouth is well-known for its potent venom and, most notably, the stark white interior of its mouth. This is how the name of the snake, which resembles cotton, came about. The way these reptiles swim through water sets them apart from other aquatic snakes. Cottonmouths sail along with their heads lifted high, gliding on top of rivers and lakes. While they prefer to stay above the surface, they have developed the capacity to attack while submerged.
The hemotoxic venom of this snake is another evolution. This particular venom also kills the victim’s red blood cells in addition to preventing the bleeding from a Cottonmouth bite site from clotting.
There is a rumor that these snakes are that one could fall into a pit of cottonmouths and endure fatal attacks is untrue. You might remember a cowboy in the Lonesome Dove miniseries having this happen to him. This is untrue because these snakes live alone in the wild.
Population and Conservation Status
The snake is a species of least concern, according to the IUCN Red List. Although we lack sufficient information on population size to provide a reliable assessment, this species does seem to be reasonably widespread across most of its natural range. Certain cottonmouth populations are, however, in danger due to the loss of wetlands habitats across the southern United States.
How to Identify Them: Appearance and Description
The longest cottonmouth ever reported was 74 inches in length, and the adult can grow to be anywhere between 2 and 6 feet long. In general, males are larger, heavier, and have a larger tail than their female counterparts. The sexes should be easier to distinguish as a result. Large, spade-shaped heads, dazzling white mouths, and alternating bands of light and dark patterns are all characteristics of cottonmouth snakes.
The most typical snake hues are black, brown, and olive, which aid in the snake’s ability to blend in with its surroundings. Babies and children can be distinguished from adults in many ways. They have significantly more pronounced color contrasts, and the tip of their tails is occasionally yellow or greenish.
How to recognize a snake:
the head of a large spade.
A long, thick, strong body that may reach a height of 6 feet.
Light and dark stripes of alternating black, brown, and olive hues can be seen.
How Dangerous Are They?
The incredibly strong venom of these snakes damages tissue and results in severe swelling and discomfort. It is often less harmful than rattlesnake venom but more dangerous than copperhead venom. Even without treatment, the venom is usually seldom lethal, however it can occasionally result in chronic scarring and very rarely require an amputation.However, after a bite, you should still get medical help right once. The toxin’s effects are significantly reduced by the antivenom.
Behavior and Humans
The South is home to a large population of cottonmouths, and interactions with them are rather frequent. Although they can be highly hazardous in principle, cottonmouths rarely bite people in reality. They’d prefer to escape and flee.
The snake will shake its tail, open its lips, and raise its head above the ground as a warning signal before striking. Cottonmouth snakes can also exude a strong, repulsive scent to ward off prospective predators.
However, even if one were to bite you, it would purposely release less venom in a protective bite than it would in an attack on its target.