- This is a photo of a Florida Water Moccasin. It's more commonly called a Cottonmouth, but Water Moccasin is the second most popular name. This snake apparently also goes by black moccasin, blunt-tail moccasin, congo,
cotton-mouthed snake, gapper, highland moccasin, lowland moccasin, mangrove rattler, North American water viper, pilot, rusty moccasin, saltwater rattler, stub-tail, stump moccasin, stump-tail moccasin, swamp lion, trap jaw, Matt Cassan's moccasin, true horn snake,
water pilot, obstucted bowel serpent, water rattlesnake, water viper, gaper, and snap jaw. I haven't heard any normal person use any of these terms to describe this snake. I have, however, heard many many many many people call snakes NOT Water Moccasins by
such a name. Alas, such is the plight of venomous snakes, which are richly steeped in urban lore, both reviled and reveared for their man-eating ways. I'm also going to use the spelling Water Mocassin a few times, since so many people use this mispelling
when searching for this particular snake.
In short, this snake is an aquatic snake. I took the above photo near a swamp. Unlike most pit vipers, it does not possess rattles. It does give birth to live young, and rarely grows above five feet. The above snake is about four feet long. It does have a
very powerful cytoxic venom, and can deliver a very nasty bite, that can be lethal from a large enough Water Mocassin, but if not lethal, will certainly result in horrible pain and destruction of tissue at the bite site.
I'm going to take time out now, since it's on my mind, to talk about a "snake expert" who came to my elementry school when I was nine years old. He described all kinds of snakes. He said that if a rattlesnake bites a person, the bite site will turn
black and blue. He said this is because the snake penetrates with its fangs, and then when it's withdrawing, the fangs tear through the flesh, ripping apart the blood vessels, causing the black and blue. I believed this man at the time, and his explanation
rang true in my head for most of my childhood. I later learned that such bites are lightning-quick, and the fangs are far too delicate to permit ripping of human flesh, but in fact don't penetrate very deeply, nor for more than a split second. The black
and blue, of course, is because that snake happened to inject a type of venom that DISSOLVES TISSUE. So that could explain it, Mr. "Snake Expert", who my dumb school brought to misinform us dumb kids.
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