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Cottonmouth Moccasin Snake

Updated on December 7, 2014
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Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

Cottonmouth, Cottonmouth Moccasin or Water Moccasin, venomous reptile

The Cottonmouth (which used to be called Cottonmouth Moccasin or Water Moccasin) is a venomous semi-aquatic snake. It is one of the five species of pit viper that inhabits Louisiana. It is also the only semi-aquatic viper in the world.

The name, Cottonmouth, comes from the way the inside of the mouth is white and looks like cotton. When cornered, as a defense mechanism, this snake will open its mouth to display the "cotton", but they would rather just be left alone.

On this page you'll find information about and photographs (posters) of the Cottonmouth snake, as well as some snake mouse pads, postage stamps, books and apparel, . We have also included a venomous snake quiz that we hope you'll enjoy.

Cottonmouth photos by Y.L. Bordelon, All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

Many of the photos seen here can be purchased in Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop as print-on-demand products such as posters, cards, apparel, mugs, etc.

Cottonmouth Snake Basking Poster

Source

Identification of Agkistrodon piscivorus


This Cottonmouth is probably a pregnant female. Did you know that Cottonmouth snakes give birth to live young? She was photographed basking on a root ball beside Pruden Creek. You can see the broad body is very pronounced and how it suddenly ends and the short tail begins.

The Cottonmouth (also called Cottonmouth Moccasin and Water Moccasin) is a member of the Viper family.

It is a heavy bodied, dark brown or black snake with a pattern of broad dark cross bands, which usually grow darker with age.

The tail is short compared to other water snakes.

The belly is brown and is heavily blotched with black.

There is a deep pit in the side of the head between the eye and the nostril and a broad dark line from the eye to the angle of the jaw.

Juveniles have a sulfur yellow tip on their tails with bright, clear patterned markings that look more like it's relative, the Copperhead.

Showing the "Cotton-like Mouth

Source

When cornered or threatened, the cottonmouth will open its mouth to show the white, cotton-like lining.

Cottonmouths are found all over the state of Louisiana in every permanent or temporary aquatic habitat. Their primary prey is fish that are small enough to be eaten whole, but they also eat frogs, non-poisonous snakes, birds, squirrels and other rodents.

Female Cottonmouths ovulate during May and give birth during August.

Cottonmouth showing cottony mouth photo is Public Domain

Moccasin Eating Bullfrog Print

After injecting the bullfrog with venom, the snake swallows it whole.
After injecting the bullfrog with venom, the snake swallows it whole. | Source

Copperhead & Cottonmouth Compared

Copperhead & Cottonmouth Compared
Copperhead & Cottonmouth Compared

The photo above shows two of the five species of the family Viperidae in Louisiana.

C. Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix

D. Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus

reference: Dundee, Harold A. and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana

Florida Poisonous Snakes
Florida Poisonous Snakes

Learn more about Florida's poisonous snakes in this handy little book.

 

The Cottonmouth is the only semi-aquatic viper in the world.

Cottonmouth Coiled and Ready

Source


This Cottonmouth was coiled by a big White Oak tree on a ridge along the Tchefuncte River during a high water incident. We try to discourage them from laying beside a trail, so we chased it away after the picture was taken.

Venomous Snakes of the Southeast

Venomous Snakes Of The Southeast
Venomous Snakes Of The Southeast

Everyone who lives in the Southeastern United States should learn to identify the venomous snakes of the area.

 
Cottonmouth in Tchefuncte River
Cottonmouth in Tchefuncte River

Rio Saves the Day

Another Cottonmouth was silently making its way to a little beach by the Tchefuncte River, where Al and I and our two dogs, Rio and Chance were peacefully sitting, enjoying the beautiful day. We would have never know the snake was there if it had not been for Rio. All of a sudden he got up and gave a quick bark, while he did a fake lunge and withdraw move at the snake. The snake promptly turned around and slid back into the water. While Rio continued to patrol the little beach I got this shot of the Cottonmouth.

Because of their bright color, juvenile Cottonmouth snakes are often confused with Copperheads. One distinguishing feature is the yellow tip of the tail. This snake will darken as it ages and it will lose the yellow tip.

Baby Cottonmouth Snake


In late spring we decided to extend the little single carport that was attached to the back of our house and turn it into a screened porch and winter greenhouse combination. We also put hardware cloth inside, so that our cats and dogs could enjoy the protected outdoor area without damaging the window screen.

During construction, an unexpected visitor decided to check out the new structure. I happened upon it when it was curled in the corner under the new water faucet. Here is one of the many pictures that I took of the unwelcome surprise guest.


After the photo op, I used a piece of scrap lumber to lift it so that it could be taken outside. As soon as it was released, it slithered off into the leaves. Hopefully he won't come back to see us again.

Baby Cottonmouth Moccasin

Angry Baby

I found this juvenile on the patio. It was well camoflauged.
I found this juvenile on the patio. It was well camoflauged.


These very young Cottonmouths are well camouflaged. During the late spring and early summer especially when heavy rains produce high water, young Cottonmouths are plentiful and they seek higher ground. You must be on guard whenever you are near water and you should wear sturdy leather shoes or boots.

I discovered this the hard way when I let my guard down and walked outside after a heavy rain wearing sandalls. Before I saw the 8 inch snake, it popped me on the big toe. The burning pain was unbelievable. I turned to see a little Cottonmouth very much like the ones above, slithering away. After a quick trip to the emergency room, an anti-venom IV and a night in the hospital, the swelling on my foot began to go down. It's much better to be cautious and careful, rather than to have to go through such an experience.

Cottonmouth (Library Alabama Classics)
Cottonmouth (Library Alabama Classics)

Learn more about Cottonmouth snakes.

 

Young Cottonmouth Near the Creek

Young Cottonmouth copyright Y.L. Bordelon
Young Cottonmouth copyright Y.L. Bordelon

Snakes of the Southeast

Snakes of the Southeast
One of the best books available about the snakes of the southeastern United States. Good illustrations and excellent information written in a way that anyone can understand.

Do Not Try This At Home!

Cottonmouth Being Held
Cottonmouth Being Held
Cottonmouths
Cottonmouths

Another informative book about Cottonmouth snakes.

 

You should never try to pick up a Cottonmouth.

Most of bites from Cottonmouths occur when someone is either trying to pick one up or when they are accidentally stepped upon. Having said that, let me say that my husband doesn't always listen to me and he has been handling snakes (both poisonous and non-poisonous) since he was quite young. He is an experienced snake handler and always takes the proper precautions when removing a poisonous snake from an inhabited area.

Because of the population explosion of song birds this year, this Cottonmouth was making its home around our bird feeders near the house and had already killed a young Cardinal and a young Blue Jay. So one morning, the opportunity to capture and move the snake presented itself. My husband released it a mile away in an unpopulated area by the Tchefuncte River.

Gigantic Cottonmouth Video

Tchefuncte Solitude

Chance the Cocker Spaniel is a Hero

Our maladjusted, rescued 2nd Chance the Cocker Spaniel is a hero. One morning, on our walk to the Tchefuncte River we were going about our business as usual. Rio and I had spied a photo op along Pruden Creek and were focused on finding the bird that we had just seen fly into the trees. Al was filling up the bird feeder and Chance was sniffing around about 3 feet behind us. All of a sudden I heard a scuffle and turned to see Chance whipping his head back and forth with a Cottonmouth hanging from his throat. I called for Al and stepped towards Chance. Just as I reached him, the snake flew off and hit the ground wiggling to get away. I was able to get a leash on Chance, but he was so enraged that he pulled me towards the Cottonmouth. Al herded the snake away from us and it escaped into a hole. When Chance settled down enough for me to look at his neck, I saw drops of watery blood.

Long ago, our vet told us that dogs don't react to snake bites as violently as humans. Usually a Benadryl tablet taken within an hour of the bite is sufficient treatment for dogs, unless the snake is very large or the bite is in the throat area. Since this bite was on the throat, Chance had to go to his least favorite place in the world, the Vet's office. He was surprisingly calm as Dr. Rusty shaved his neck and gave him injections and we were told to watch the wound for infection. If Chance hadn't scratched it so much, he would have been fine, but a hot spot developed that required more treatment. Eventually the wound healed and Chance is fine now. In fact, the ordeal seems to have tempered him a little and he seems to trust us a little more.

I certainly have a special feeling for him. Chance saved me from a painful and life-threatening bite and I will forever be in the little fellow's debt.

Cottonmouth in Creek

Cottonmouth Book

Cottonmouths (Snakes)
Cottonmouths (Snakes)

The Discovery Library series of children's nature books provides good information and colorful pictures about animals. The Cottonmouth book is no exception.

 

Cottonmouth Preparing to Shed

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chance found another Cottonmouth, but didn't stick his nose in its face this time.That was a good thing because this snake is preparing to shed. Notice the cloudy, bluish tint to its eyes.You can also see a patch of white skin on top of the head.The snake is also rubbing its head on vegetation.When snakes shed, they work the dead skin off of the head first.Then crawl under branches and through vegetation to work the skin down to the tip of the tail.This one needs a little more crawling and rubbing before the job is done.
Chance found another Cottonmouth, but didn't stick his nose in its face this time.
Chance found another Cottonmouth, but didn't stick his nose in its face this time.
That was a good thing because this snake is preparing to shed. Notice the cloudy, bluish tint to its eyes.
That was a good thing because this snake is preparing to shed. Notice the cloudy, bluish tint to its eyes.
You can also see a patch of white skin on top of the head.
You can also see a patch of white skin on top of the head.
The snake is also rubbing its head on vegetation.
The snake is also rubbing its head on vegetation.
When snakes shed, they work the dead skin off of the head first.
When snakes shed, they work the dead skin off of the head first.
Then crawl under branches and through vegetation to work the skin down to the tip of the tail.
Then crawl under branches and through vegetation to work the skin down to the tip of the tail.
This one needs a little more crawling and rubbing before the job is done.
This one needs a little more crawling and rubbing before the job is done.

Cottonmouth Poll

Do you live in an area where Cottonmouths dwell?

See results

Let's Strike up a Conversation!

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    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Love your photos. I have to say, your husband has more guts than I do.

      Thanks for the feature. I returned the favor. This lens in now featured on my Cottonmouth lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Stopping back by to bless this excellent article. So happy I do not have cottonmouths where I now live.

    • Thrinsdream profile image

      Thrinsdream 5 years ago

      Loved the story about Chance, I think my dog gets me into way more trouble than she gets me out of, but I adore her. Loved this lens. I knew nothing about this snake and now can go and show off my new found knowledge to my daughter who is somewhat of an enthusiast! With thanks and appreciation. Cathi x

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      I encountered my first cottonmouths in Texas (water skiing). Not much fun to be in the water with them, especially when the tow boat is taking its time getting you out of the water! Thanks for this very educational lens. I learned a great deal. Now that I live in Colorado, the only poisonous snake I have seen near my property is the Prairie Rattler.

    • pimbels lm profile image

      pimbels lm 6 years ago

      Interesting lens. Thank you

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 6 years ago

      Interesting - I don't like snakes, but I am fascinated by them. Thumbs up.

    • Philippians468 profile image

      Philippians468 6 years ago

      i totally agree with you that we should never try to pick up a Cottonmouth, and i would also add that i would never pick up any other snake too!

    • Draconius LM profile image

      Draconius LM 6 years ago

      I live in Arkansas and see cottonmouth snakes all the time around here. Great job and blessed and added to my Reptile and Amphibians Lens

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      This is one scary looking snake. I photographed one in Florida, but used my zoom. He was about four or five feet long.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 7 years ago

      Didn't do to well on your quiz - only got two right. Obviously don't know much about snakes. Great informative and entertaining lens.5*****

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Well, I flunked your quiz big time. LOL

      Could be because I loathe snakes, no matter how big, how little, or how venomous. They just give me the icks.

      Beautifully crafted lens and gorgeous pictures (even if I do hate snakes with a passion). 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Well done, a nicely executed lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Wow- what a life you lead! Love the stories about your dogs protecting you. Gorgeous pics too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I must admit I am glad we don't have that many poisonous snakes here in the UK. My son has had a few close encounters when he visits Malaysia & Thailand, but I would rather not know about it! Blessings!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Excellent Lens. 5*

      If you get a chance check out my Instant Stress Management lens.

    • Winter52 LM profile image

      Winter52 LM 8 years ago

      My husband is fascinated with snakes... me they scare me silly. If I had come as close to this snake as you did, I think that I would have nightmares for a week. But I am going to bring what I now know about this snake during dinner tomorrow night. My husband will be impressed lol...

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

      Lizzy

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      The Cottonmouth is fairly common around here. Snakes are an important part of the ecosystem and I respect that. I just wish they would stay out of my garage.

      Great lens

      Lizzy

    • profile image

      rio1 9 years ago

      An informative and exciting lens. A great message of "live & let live". Good job