Friday, July 12, 2013


A water moccasin is the same thing as a cottonmouth.  The name cottonmouth comes from the fact that this snake's mouth is white on the inside.  But I'm not sure why it is also called a water moccasin, because it doesn't look much like a moccasin to me.  And I don't think you would want to wear moccasins in the water because if you did, they would get all wet and soaked.  After which, your feet would get wet and cold and you might catch pneumonia.

But getting back to snakes, the scientific name for the water moccasin is Agkistrodon piscivorus.  In English, this means "hooked-tooth fish-eater."  Other names for the water moccasin are swamp moccasin, black moccasin, gapper, or viper.  The water moccasin is poisonous, so you should try to avoid getting bitten.  Instead of slithering away when it is frightened, it is more likely to stay put and face you and make a big threat display.  If you step on one or pick it up, it will bite you.

Map by Craig Pemberton,
based on original map by Jwinius

Cottonmouths live in the southeast part of the U.S.  They like to hang out near water, such as in shallow lakes, marshes, and streams.  They are good swimmers, and sometimes they even cross short pieces of the ocean to go live on islands near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.  They are the only semi-aquatic venomous snakes in the world.  They are usually about 24" to 26" long, and the males are bigger than the females.

The main things that water moccasins like to eat are fish and frogs, but they will also eat other stuff that comes along, such as snakes, lizards, small turtles, baby alligators, mammals, and birds.  Since they are pit-vipers, they can sense the heat of prey or predators.  Water moccasins usually go hunting after dark, especially in hot weather.  They like to lie in the sun on rocks or branches near the water, but they don't usually climb high up in trees, like some snakes do.

Cottonmouths mate in early summer.  The males fight over the females, and then the females have litters of 1-20 live young.  The baby snakes have stripes around their bodies and also bright yellow tips on their tails.  Older snakes get darker in color, and some are almost black.

Here are the main ways you can tell the difference between a water moccasin and an ordinary water snake:
1.  Water moccasins have bodies that are much thicker and heavier than the bodies of water snakes.
2.  Water moccasins have big, blocky heads and definite necks.  Water snakes don't.
3.  The pupils in a water moccasin's eyes are vertical, and the pupils in a water snake's eyes are round.
4.  Water moccasins swim with their whole bodies on top the water, unless they are trying to hide.  Water snakes swim with only their heads out of the water.

Okay, well, now that I told you all about water moccasins, I will just say that I think everybody should stay far away from any swampy, wet places where these snakes are likely to hang out.  And the reason for this is, for one thing, you might fall in the water and drown, and for another thing, a water moccasin might bite you and you would die from the snakebite.  In either one of these cases, you would be dead, and that's not a good way to be.

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