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Cottonmouth Snake Facts|Facts about the Agkistrodon Piscivorus

Updated on January 30, 2014

Facts about Cottonmouth Snakebites

The Agkistrodon piscivorus, or cottonmoth snake as it is more commonly called, is a venomous snake whose bite can be lethal, if not properly treated in time. The video above show what cottonmouth snakes do when they feell threatened, that is, hiss and show their fangs. They will not strike unless it is absolutely necessary.

Although cottonmouth snake bites can be fatal to humans if left untreated, there have been very few fatalities actually officially reported recently. In fact, according to some sources, when they strike to defend themselves they do not inject as much venom as when they are attacking it prey. Also notable is the fact that the amount of venom injected in a bite varies from snake to snake.

a cottonmouth snake's open mouth.
a cottonmouth snake's open mouth. | Source

When Bitten by a Cottonmouth

When bitten by a cottonmouth, the potency of the venom depends on a variety of things. The first and probably the most important variable is how much venom was actually injected into the victim. The amount of venom depends on the snake's size, how thick clothing the person has on, and how accurate the snake strike really was. Other variables determining the potency of a cottenmouth snake bite includes where the bite actually is, the victim's individual allergic response, and the size of the victim's overall body.

The symptoms of a cottonmouth snakebite very likely varies from person to person, due to, as I said earlier, each person allergic/immunity responses. After the initial pain of the snake's teeth sinking into the flesh, there comes a burning sensation where the snake has bitten. Victims usually will experience swelling, which in the absence of antivenom can cause the skin to rupture. Other common symptoms in the early stages of envenomation include nausea and weakness and breathing difficulties. If left untreated, edema (extra fluid buildup in tissues throughout the body) can occur, which then prevents bloodflow. If to much venom spreads throughout the body, it can become fatal. Because of this, it is not advisable to use any kind of stimulants or any anti-inflammation drug that increases blood flow. If a cottonmouth snake bites you, seek medical attention immediately!

Cottonmouth Snake Fact!

Did you know that the cottonmouth is also commonly called the water moccasin? This is because it is often found in the water, although, of course, it is not considered a water snake. There are numerous other names this snake is called, including gapper, viper, swamp moccasin, and black snake.

Typical cottonmouth color
Typical cottonmouth color | Source

Identifying the Cottonmouth

Probably the most distinctive feature of the cottonmouth is the insides of its mouth. This is probably the first the thing you’ll notice when you come across this snake and it is in the defensive position (see video above) Its mouth is a noticeably lighter color that is almost milky white. This is why most people call it a cottonmouth.

Another way to correctly identify them is by noticing how it swims in the water. Cottonmouths will usually float on top of the water while swimming, unlike some other snakes that swim.

Please note that cottonmouths usually cannot be identified by the color of their scales. The reason for this is because of the large variation of colors. Cottonmouths usually grow darker as they age, and some of them even become completely black. Some things to look for when trying to identify the snake by color only is to look at its head, which usually is a bit lighter that the rest of the body. Because of this, it is fairly easy to spot the typical dark stripes that extend from the eye to the rest of the body. This is a great way to tell the difference between the cottonmouth and other very similar looking snakes such as the Agkistrodon Contortix.

Cottonmouth Snakes do not Like Biting People

Cottonmouth Snake Fact!

Did you know that the cottonmouth snake is now considered to have three subspecies. In the following list are the names of the three subspecies:

  • Florida Cottonmouth (conanti)
  • Western Cottonmouth (leucostoma)
  • Eastern Cottonmouth (piscvorus)

The Cottonmouth’s Locality and Habitat

The cottonmouth is typically found in the south-eastern United States, in states such as Florida and Georgia. They have also been found as far west as eastern side of Texas and as far north as the tip of Indiana, although sightings are a rarity in those areas.

These snakes usually live areas where there is a water, such as swamps and marshes. There have also been many found around the shores of ponds and lakes, so caution should be taken when swimming around the areas where the snakes are more common. While it prefers to swim in freshwater rivers and lakes, there have been some sightings reported of them swimming in areas with saltwater.

Cottonmouth Snake Fact!

Did you know that contrary to popular belief, young cottonmouths are every bit as dangerous as adults? Babies are just as venomous and can just as easily kill people with their poison. The only difference between young and old is that the young’s teeth aren’t quite as long!

Cottonmouth Reproduction Behaviors

The cottonmouth’s breeding time usually occurs around springtime, although some have suggested that they breed year round. When a female is sexually active, it is common to see two males competing over the right to mate.

Unlike black mamba snakes, which lay their eggs right away, the cottonmouth is ovoviviparous, which means it will produce eggs which are hatched inside the female, which then gives birth to live snakes. After fertilization, the eggs take around four month to hatch. Usually, they will give birth to six to eight snakes, although they will sometimes give birth to up to 20 young.

There have been suggestions that, although cottonmouth young are fully equipped to fend for themselves, the mother will stay by their young for at least the first few days. This may be because they need protection until their bodies are fully functional.


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      Phillipi 2 years ago

      I have seen many a cottonmouth in the wild, but have never heard one hssiing. They are certainly nasty looking and from my experience tend to be the more aggressive of the Georgia poisonous snakes!

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      Dennis 2 years ago

      That sounds scary! I hate sneaks we have to worry about rattlers, mainly (as far as the venemous varieties the paper ran an article saying we have 7 different dangerous species in Nevada). I don't like the non-venemous varieties either, and we think we have a red racer living under the chicken coop.Of course, you'll have to see the photo a few posts back over on my blog to see that my children don't have a healthy enough fear it was a grass snake, but still