Water Moccasin Snake
Which name is correct, water moccasin snake or cottonmouth? Well, the
name “water moccasin snake” is more or less a generic term used by rural
folks referring to any dark colored snake near the water. The name
“Cottonmouth” is the correct name accepted by herpetology. For the sake of
the rural folks.
most venomous snakes is that they
don’t enjoy the presence of people.
With that, most venomous snakes tend
to seek out places that have the least
amount of human contact as possible.
Well, this snake is no
different, their optimal habitat consists
of marsh wet lands and other calm slow
moving streams, cypress swamps,
ponds and lakes. For the most part they stick to natural fixed bodies of water
with thick vegetation that provides an abundant source of food.
When I was a young man living in Fort Myers, Florida I observed a group of
water moccasin snakes gathered around a small pond that was all but dried
up, preying on the tad poles and small fish trapped inside. Although, they
will venture from water on occasion, when they do, they still seem to prefer
the low land type habitat that retains a lot of moisture, opposed to the drier
open grasslands or plains. In the northern regions of their native range water
moccasin snakes do hibernate, but they have been observed all months of
the calendar year on occasional warm days outside the den site sunning on
the hillside or waters edge.
Personality: I once heard an old herpetologist by the name of Doug Jones
say, “Cottonmouths live in a harsh environment from which they developed a
rather harsh personality.” Looking at places where they are commonly found,
you can’t help but see some truth in that statement as they do tend to live
in rather harsh areas of swamp land and backwoods.
Water moccasin snakes clearly carry a different demeanor than other flighty
non-venomous water snakes that quickly flee when approached or stumbled
upon, whereas, the water moccasin snake usually stand its ground. Large
males also appear to be territorial in some instances advancing on would be
threats and even approaching occupied boats at times. Are water moccasins
really territorial or are they a little more curious than other species is the real
question? I tend to think it’s probably a little combination of both, all fueled
by self confidence.
I’ve read several articles about the species where authors report that
water moccasin’s don’t regularly climb low lying branches on the water’s edge
and bask like other non-venomous waters snakes do, but that is entirely
false. I’ve personally seen several animals more than a couple feet off the
ground basking in the sun in the same manor that common water snakes
tend to do.
I will say that they clearly swim differently than other water snakes, being
that they are very buoyant so the majority of their body does in fact tend to
stay on the surface of the water. While other water snakes swim much more
submerged and concealed with only the head above the water’s surface.
Diet: Water moccasin snakes utilize a few different hunting methods being
opportunistic and ambush hunters as well as scavengers if need be. Their
prey items range from small turtles, frogs, birds, mammals, fish, raccoons,
opossums and even snakes to include other water moccasins! This is one of
the reasons why I’ve always liked these snakes so much, they’re a wicked
nasty pit viper that carries a dominant attitude which says, “If I can catch it
and kill it, then it’s a worthy food source.” That’s one of the reasons they’ve
been coined the “Bad boys of the South” among reptile keepers and