06.21.2007 - This is an important snake to be able to identify in the state of Florida. This is a juvenile cottonmouth snake. As with many snakes, its appearance
is different from that of the adult snake. The young cottonmouth has angular brown and tan bands in a pattern. As the snake ages, these bands fade, and the snake
becomes almost entirely black. The only real identifying coloration marking on the adult is the black band that extends back from the eye. The cottonmouth, or
water moccasin as it's also called, also has an elliptical pupil (see the above eye, how it's cat-like), as do all venomous pit vipers.
Click here to see photos of the Adult Cottonmouth, which is darker, almost black.
Regardless, both the adult and the baby water moccasin have the same body shape, and that's the easiest way to identify this snake. It's a fat aquatic snake, probably the fattest native snake in Florida. An adult Eastern Diamondback might be fatter, but if you see a large, fat, black snake in the water, it's likely a moccasin. If you see a small fat snake with a brown/tan pattern, it could be a juvenile water moccasin. Of course, it also might be a harmless snake, such as the banded water snake or Brown Water Snake. The baby cottonmouth snake has a very painful bite - it's too small to kill a person, but the bite is extremely painful and will dissolve and permanently destroy tissue. The young snakes will not hesitate to strike if threatened, so if you see the above snake, please leave it alone!
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Cottonmouth Snake relationship with Native Americans - The Native Americans were the first people to have to deal with the cottonmouth snake, and they are credited with giving the creature its other moniker of “water moccasin”. The cottonmouth snake is a semi-aquatic creature that feeds on the small animals living in streams and bodies of water. It rarely wishes to interact with humans, though if antagonized, this pit viper is likely to strike just as any other snake. The danger with the water moccasin is that they can and will bite underwater. Swimmers that unknowingly connect with a snake while swimming might find themselves the victims of a bite. It is almost always an accidental contact that procures the baby cottonmouth bite, though other common reasons for attacks have to do with people trying to kill the snake because they feel threatened by its close proximity. The best thing you can do when you see a cottonmouth is to leave it alone. The snake does not see humans as prey; it will not come after you. Don't try to kill it or approach it. Most vipers can strike too fast to counteract, and they often have a greater reach than people give them credit for.
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If you want to get a baby cottonmouth photo or picture, you may want to read this first. This species of snake is not one that you want to approach. The cottonmouth is also known as the water moccasin and it is a water snake in North America that is venomous. You will recognize this snake by the triangle-shaped block head and thick body. They rarely attempt to bite a human unless they feel threatened. Because they are semi-aquatic, they can be found swimming in the water which in turn can lead to accidentally coming across one without even realizing it until they bite. They also like to lay on the banks and bathe in the sun.
So why are they called cottonmouths? Because inside their mouth is a white coloration that is very distinctive. They are also known as pit vipers, so they not only have heat-sensing abilities between the eyes and nose, they are able to detect the temperature differences, giving them the ability to strike at their prey before they even realize it.
Characteristics of the Cottonmouth
This snake is large in size and can range anywhere from two feet long to four feet. They feature a large jowl structure to better fit their venom glands as well as their pupils. They feature a stripe down by each nostril and a pale-colored nose.
Their bodies are thick and muscular in build and they are covered in scales that are ridged. They can be found in colors that range from black to dark brown, to even olive or yellow. The bellies are pale in color. Baby cottonmouths and young adults have bands that run across their bodies in light brown colors.
When striking, the baby and young cottonmouths have a yellow tip on their tails that is very visible. This yellow tip is used to lure in the prey by rocking it back and forth slowly until they approach out of curiosity.
Cottonmouths live primarily where it is wet and dark such as swamps, drain ditches, and marshes. You can also find them along edges of ponds, streams, and lakes. If they are on land, you can bet the water is close by. Because they like to sunbathe, they will sometimes be stretched out on rocks, logs, and branches of trees. After heating up their bodies, they will take a quick swim in the water to cool down.
The diet of the cottonmouth consists of frogs, lizards, turtles, baby alligators, fish, small mammals, birds, and other snakes.
These snakes will mate in early spring and the female will lay eggs. Because cottonmouths are ovoviviparous, the eggs are incubated within the mother's body. They give birth to live babies every couple of years and litters can contain up to 20 babies. It takes three or four months to carry them all to term. Once born, the babies can then be independent without any care from the parents.