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The Water Moccasin, or Cottonmouth Snake


The Water Moccasin

I've spent more time this Spring outdoors than I have in a long time. Mostly I've been going fishing for striped bass, sand bass, or hybrid bass: and though I knew that there would be some snakes out there, I still dreaded my first encounter (and hopefully last) with the Water Moccasin that would surely, and did, in fact, come. My friend and I had already made a run, caught several bass, and took them back to my place to clean; and then we'd gone back for more. We'd caught another big hybrid, and put him into a cooler with some water, and decided to walk further down the length of King's Creek, to look for some more wide, deep pools. We weren't very successful, with me only catching a small Channel Catfish, which we released, and so after a while we decided to head back, get the cooler, and leave.

"Hey, Todd, why don't you dump the water out of that cooler; and we'll go clean that fish. . "

And so I'd tipped the cooler, and while watching the water from it flow downhill towards the creek I realized that a sizable, black Water Moccasin had just slithered right between my feet. You can imagine my expletive laced outburst. The snake had been inside the cooler with the fish, and the fish was discolored, and didn't make the trip home. I'll not eat after a snake - ever.

Looking back on it, it should have been obvious to me that a snake would be able to smell the fish inside the cooler, and with a little nudge of it's head it could open the lid and get inside.

Agkistrodon piscivorus (Latin, the Genus and species)



The Water Moccasin, or "Cottonmouth," as it is sometimes called, is a venomous viper, and should be avoided at all costs. Though the venom can indeed be deadly to humans, it most often is not. I'm told that anti venom for this snake's bite should be common at any hospital. It is, in fact, the same anti venom used for almost all North American poisonous snakebites, as the Cottonmouth, as it is called as the white of it's mouth's insides appears with fangs barred, in contrast to the snake's body's near black color, is a close relative to the Rattlesnake and the Copperhead.

So this snake has a reputation as an aggressive one, and like I said, it is to be avoided, but I for one can and will tell you that it's reputation as an aggressive reptile is over rated. There have been a number of times that I've been stomping through the woods near water, and nearly stepped on one of these critters. I do recognize that I'm a pretty lucky fella in a number of regards, but I also recall a time when I was about twelve years old when I killed a Agkistrodon piscivorus specimen that I measured at five feet and six inches long. I've never had a snake come at me, but that is probably because I have mostly always killed them as soon as I've seen them, and with whatever means that I had available to me to kill them with. Yes, I've grown older and wiser - I see how pointless it generally is to kill a snake, and certainly, the one I most recently saw slither between my feet lived on after I left the area, and he probably finished his meal on MY sand bass too!

Reading the Wikipedia article about this poisonous viper, I was struck by the apparent color variations that this species of snake can, in fact, have. If you decide to view the article, you can see that the snake can almost be, at times, identical to it's cousin, the Copperhead. I realize now that it could be that in the past, I'd wrongly assumed that I'd encountered a Copperhead, when in fact, I'd walked up on a Water Moccasin. Suffice it to say, however, that Copperheads are most often seen under bushes, or in brush, and that the Cottonmouth Viper, usually a larger and much darker snake, is always found close to water,

A Water Moccasin, or "Cottonmouth"

Territory, behavior, Venom

The Water Moccasin can be found from East Texas to Florida. and all points in between, it is sometimes seen as far North as Nebraska and Illinois, and parts of South Carolina. The Water Moccasin is unafraid of salt water, and has managed to swim out to sea, colonizing small barrier Gulf Coast islands. People reportedly bitten by Water Moccasin snakes are somewhat commonly occurring throughout the lower Mississippi River Valley; fatalities, however, are very uncommon.

The Water Moccasin mostly feeds on fish and frogs, but has been described as omni-carnivorous, and has been known to even feed on carrion, and smaller Water Moccasins. There are three sub-species of this snake, and none of them, or its relatives are in the least bit of danger so far as our world's biodiversity is concerned. The snake is itself the prey of snapping turtles, owls, and other snakes, such as the King Snake.

The Cottonmouth's venomous bite is reported as being more painful than it's cousin's, the Copperhead, but less painful than that of either the Eastern or Western Diamondback Rattlesnake's bite. That bit stirs my imagination - I'm left wondering if someone out there has actually been bitten by any three or four species of snake, and then gave an opinion as to which snake's bite was more painful. What's important to know is that the Water Moccasin's venom, though rich in tissue destroying enzymes - contains NO neurotoxins.

Cottonmouth snakes in Florida


Though I hesitate to call a creature such as the Water Moccasin "beautiful," it is important to realize that all non invasive species of any given ecosystem exist for a reason, and that the needless killing of such creatures devalues the lives of all creatures. I was asking my Dad here recently about snakes such as these, and the Dad said that he'd never known of anyone here locally to have been bitten by a Cottonmouth, but that one of his cousins had been bitten by a Copperhead here locally, when they were children. Of course the Shaw cousin had been fine after a couple days in a local hospital,

I hope that this has been interesting for someone, and that maybe something was learned. I certainly learned a great deal while doing the bit of research for this article. Enjoy the outdoors, and stay away from pit vipers.

The Water Moccasin On Land


© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 28, 2018:

I've almost stepped on those and copperheads so many times that I wonder at just how lucky I am.

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Virginia Allain from Central Florida on May 28, 2018:

We had a small one of these in our garage. Luckily, we found him before getting bitten. He was stuck on a glue trap that we had in there.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 06, 2016:

Cody and Chris - I got my distribution information from Wikipedia. Warming weather could allow them to move more northward too.

Chris Fitzgerald on August 31, 2015:

after moving to Nebraska and accepting a job with the Parks Department I was under the impression that there were no water moccasins in Nebraska. I was wrong as I've seen many while clearing the sides of a large stream running through the park.

Cody russell on May 02, 2015:

There are no water moccasins in Nebraska. People have been perpetuating this myth for a long time. They mistake common water snakes for moccasins. Winters are to harsh for moccasins to survive here

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 06, 2013:


Oh I got a page around here somewhere about alligators ...if I happened to write anything interesting about them there.

Myself, I'm in Kaufman, Texas...there are no rattlers here. Texas has LOTS of rattlesnakes, but they are all hours South of me, and also West of me. Where I am there are only cottonmouths, copperheads, and coral snakes...but I've never in my life seen a coral snake.

I'm intrigued by your owl theory...I know for a fact Greater Roadrunners eat snakes, but I can't recall if that bird lives in your neck o' the woods. I believe it does NOT, but owls sure would do the trick if you could get them to homestead your place.

Best Wishes!

Rick on November 06, 2013:

I live in NW Florida in a town called Santa Rosa Beach. I have property that slopes down into a cypress swamp. I have been bitten myself by an Eastern Diamondback hugging against my garage door on my driveway as I was walking my Daughter out to take her to pee wee chearleading practice. Painful!

We also have pigmy Rattle Snakes that only get no bigger than a common lizard and coil up to the size of a 50 cent piece. Yes they bite and I have been told by the hospital when I spent my 4 days from the diamondback bite the pigmy venom is worse. We have loads of pigmy's around. And they can zip up a tree like a monkey. (I have clear cut my property)

PLUS I have Water Moccasins. OMG! For now I have lines the edge of the swamp with a line of huge trees I clearcut. Jury is still out if that helps at all?

I came across this website trying to find the best owl for my area and I will be building a fricken mansion for them. Or even develop an Owl condominium. I don't care about the snakes, I have kids.

I know I am in "their" territory, but after that first bite, I have nightmares about getting bit. So if the owl theory doesn't work, I'm getting a pet Mongoose, anything that works so I can feel good about letting my kids play in the yard without me putting on my snake boots and checking it first.

I guess I'll talk about the gators in the swamp on another site.


Jeff on October 04, 2012:

damn i thought the snakes would strike

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 13, 2012:

Very scary!!!!! I would kill one close to my house - but by a creek. it's THEIR WORLD.

Golfgal from McKinney, Texas on May 08, 2012:

Hi Weston, came across your hub when looking for hubs to link with mine called River Monsters. I was chased my a cotton mouth as a youth and tell the tale in my hub. Thanks. I appreciate your admiration for the creature, but for me...I vote for the kill method. Sorry.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 25, 2012:

MizBejabbers OH WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll bet you got a dry bite - pit vipers can bite something WITHOUT injecting venom if they want to. VERY LUCKY for you!!!!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on April 25, 2012:

Loved your story about the snake eating your lunch! Yes, we have snakes here in the South. In fact I was so used to snakes that I didn't pay much attention to them. Then one day my husband and I went swimming in a little lake in Little Rock, and we were playing with a battery operated sailboat. The boat got hung in some weeds just down the bank from the dock and I went to retrieve it. There were a lot of slender dead sticks lying in the water, and when I waded by, one stick jumped up and tapped my foot on the instep, then swam away. I wondered about it, but it didn't worry me. When we got home and my foot dried, it began to itch in that spot. Upon inspection I found fang marks. I had been bitten and didn't know it. Fortunately I just had an itchy foot for a couple of hours, no swelling or other symptoms. I wonder how many of those "dead sticks" were snakes and why only one bit me. I do watch out for water snakes now.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 03, 2012:

Jerry Weedman - No apology needed!!!! Also, that link you provided was outstanding!!!!!!!!!! There were cottonmouths pictured in that one with a wide array of colouration.

Jerry Weedman on April 03, 2012:

Sorry man, after reading more into it, I felt pretty dumb for saying it. Take care

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 30, 2012:

Jerry Weedman - A "Cottonmouth" is the exact same snake as a water moccasin.

There are tons of snakes and other animals with lots of accepted names.

For instance - the "Mountain Lion," or "Cougar" - has at least FORTY English names.

Jerry Weedman on March 26, 2012:

Wow those water moccasins are really scary, but correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think your pics are of water moccasins. Those look much more like cottonmouths. I was comparing your images to the images on the official site: and your animals look identical to these? ~JW

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 24, 2012:

avril lavigne fan #1 - They scare me too!!!!

When I was too stupid to know any a 12 year old, or roundabout that age...I killed a huge one, at least six feet long...with a stick.

I'm very pleased to have been of service to you!

avril lavigne fan #1 on March 24, 2012:

those snakes scare me but it was worth using this sight for my project

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on January 17, 2012:

I think you might be right Mr. Wesman. City-skunks might just have a different schedule lol

Thanks for letting me know about rabbied skunks though - good to know. Cheers!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 17, 2012:

Hey Mr. Happy, it could be that in Toronto there are urban skunks that have adapted to city life, and do what they do during the daylight hours.

I need to research and write about skunks - but now that I'm thinking about it, I've no idea if you've got the same kind of skunks there as are here....or not.

BUT - down here and out in the country, any old man will tell you that if you see a skunk out in the daylight messing about - to please shoot the thing as it is surely a rabid skunk.

Nobody should have to deal with rabies shots!!!!

Now when I say "daylight" - that doesn't necessarily mean "just before dark," as sometimes the skunks here will start moving around just before sundown - and especially during mating season.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on January 16, 2012:

Hello again Mr. Wesman,

I do not know much about skunks (my Airdale Terrier killed one once ... she stank for months afterwards lol) so, did you mean that any skunk seen in the dailight has rabbies?

I think I have seen many skunks around Toronto in the dailight and they were pretty calm, in my opinion.

I do like the way skunks look though, I think they're pretty cool in that sense.


Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on January 12, 2012:

I dont kill anything unless I am ready to eat it. Well, sometimes it happens unintentionally: like stepping on an ant or something of that sort.

I have never encountered a venomous snake. There aren;t many in Canada. I must say, I do like that about Canada. Not many poisoneous species of anything here. For the most part, all you gotta worry about are bears and maybe racoons stealing your food when you go out in the bush.

From what I have heard from others (and what you also wrote here), it does seem that snakes will not attack all of a sudden and for no reason. I think they are like most other animals, vicious when cornered or when they have their offspring around.

Good to know you and the cottonmouth both went your own ways in peace. Cheers to that!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on May 03, 2011:

Hey thanks! I can't claim to love those venomous water moccasins, but I do like writing about critters!

ChristinCordle12 on May 02, 2011:

LOve it, Great hub.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 10, 2011:

Hey thanks, mquee! I think the aggression is very over rated. I think that coming at humans is a trait that most often leads to the death of the individual snakes that have that trait.

I'm getting into fishing more and more. I've had a blast this Spring stream fishing for spawning bass, and in Texas with have hybrids that the Texas parks and wildlife releases for sport, and man, do those fish ever put up a terrific fight! It's a bigtime adrenaline rush to have one of them on a line, and you'd need some heavy line, or a partner with a net to get them in, usually!

I'm working on a hub now about "The Bowfin," a pre historic fish we have around here, and probably where you are at.

Truth be told, I prefer catfish to them all.

mquee from Columbia, SC on April 10, 2011:

I love to fish also, and sooner or later a fisherman is going to come across a snake or two.I am inquisitive about them, but still keep my distance when possible. I have heard of their aggressiveness, but didn't know much else about them. Very good hub and a learning experience for me.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 09, 2011:

Hey thanks, Sir! The cottonmouth most definitely can be easily mistaken. The dang thing can really look different from young to old to all points in between. A King Snake sometimes suffers the unhappy fate of being confused with the moccasin.

Of course I want to know a whole lot more about my local snakes. It's more difficult, of course, to find good information on the less "glamourous" ones.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on April 09, 2011:

Good write up and story. There are of course as you know, numerous water snakes that resemble coppers and cottons and most lay persons automatically assume the worst. Glad pets is in the lead.

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on April 08, 2011:

There are some snakes in England. The Adder is a poisonous one. Then there is the grassnakes which are pretty small and non venomous. I think they are rather rare, as I have never seen one.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 08, 2011:

You are right, Christopher, and the thing didn't look happy at all.

You know, I have absolutely no idea what sort of snakes might live in any part of England. Of course everyone has heard that there are no snakes in Ireland. . .so I'd sort of assumed that there were very few in Scotland, Wales or England either. I do hope that none slide their way into your garden!

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on April 07, 2011:

Thanks for an interesting article about a creature that never, thankfully, comes into my garden. I feel that people who deliberately wind up snakes, like the person in your first video, deserve to get bitten. No creature likes to be prodded by a stick for fun.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 04, 2011:

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that would be a nightmare indeed. If a snake ever drops from above in front of me, I'll probably have an instant heart attack!

Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on April 04, 2011:

One of my most PTSD fishing experiences, had to do with the bayou, a Cottonmouth, and gravity. Suckers will drop into to the boat...Thanks for the memories!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 01, 2011:

I just don't see eating lizard unless I have to!!! I know that lots of folks eat the rattlers.

Do you know what rattler hunting has caused?????????????? Snakes evolve, of course, and rattler hunting has caused rattlers to evolve into deadly snakes with a more quiet rattle, as being quiet helps them escape detection from hunters.

Great. . . .just great!!!

I ate some gator once, and I didn't care for it. Too greasy. Might give it another try when I'm hungry enough.

Fallen Valkyrie on April 01, 2011:

Yeah, to hear Grandpa tell it, Mocs would swim right up and climb in your boat. They'll drop from trees and bite your neck; they spring from under bushes(but now I think this may have been more reference to Coppers?)Those were the tales I heard for 10 years prior to ever setting foot down there....yegads, wonder why I was skeered?

My brother's new gal will hop out of the truck and chase off shooting a rattler for dinner. Why in the HELL would people eat something with enough toxins to kill an elephant? Spare me the 'if its cleaned right blah blah blah' - with all of the food options out there is the risk necessary, seriously? Eat poisonous creatures and die and flowers from me is all I can say lol.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 01, 2011:

I keep getting stories about people who were bitten by Copperheads, but I've not heard of anyone getting bit by the Cottonmouth.

There is a colorful local clan of folks who've lived in the area for a long time, and one local gangster type redneck tales the tale of his older brother eating a Water Moccasin, and getting so sick that he had to be hospitalized. . . . and the doctor had made the folks repeat the story of what happened several times over, he couldn't really believe, it seems, that someone had ate a water moccasin!

Fallen Valkyrie on April 01, 2011:

My Grandpa was from MS and oh the horror stories I heard about the Mocs in the water. My brother got spanked for trailing his hand in the water alongside the boat fishing down there - acceptable here in NM but notsomuch other places..? All I know is that before we vacationed thru the south, I had so many adults warn me about the snakes down there that I was literally scared out of my wits and have feared snakes ever since. Now I find out that it all may have been unfounded BS???

Rattlers may have a worse bite but at least they are courteous snakes and give both audio and visual warnings before striking you and they'd really rather not. The thought of one creeping into a cooler is just...nope. Rattlesnakes are well mannered snakes and would never swipe your lunch! ;-)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 01, 2011:


I think " get away, return with shotgun, check eyes, if available " might be better advice.

Patricia Shaw on April 01, 2011:

Remember your experience with snakes at Camp Koinonia? John Furrer told you to inspect their eyes to determine whether they were dangerous, indicated by round or almond shaped peepers. The parents advised you to "kill first, check out the eyes later"! Not a PETA friendly response.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 31, 2011:

Thanks Tony! I think that in your part of the world snakes sometimes become a much more life and death matter. I love wildlife, and I hope to see and learn about a lot more of it! :=D

Tony McGregor from South Africa on March 31, 2011:

Brilliant! I like snakes in their own habitat and have in my life seen many. We con't get these guys here, though.

Thanks for all the research. I enjoyed the read.

Love and peace


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 30, 2011:

I bet! Those things are nearly as intimidating as the snakes. I ought to hub them as well.

Nell Rose from England on March 30, 2011:

I think she nearly found that out! lol

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 30, 2011:


Those snapping turtles actually eat those water moccasins, and they can take a human finger off!!!

Nell Rose from England on March 30, 2011:

She also tried to adopt a turtle which kept hissing at her, she thought it was a tortoise, and she decided to take a short cut after getting of the bus, through one of the most dangerous parts of, I think, new york? not sure, all I know is that there were people sitting on their porches with guns and they spoke spanish, she was approached by loads of people looking at her as though she was insane, suddenly a 6ft tall policeman got out of the car ran across the road and said, 'mam, I think you gotta come with me for your own safety'! she was escorted back to her hotel. I think she forgot she wasn't in safe little old buckinghamshire England! lol

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 30, 2011:

OH MY!!!! Lucky Lady, that one! I do think that the aggression of the Water Moccasin truly is over rated, I still wouldn't ever want them swimming around my bare legs though!

Nell Rose from England on March 30, 2011:

Hi, I got so caught up in the comments that I forgot what I was going to say! lol has Micky bin misbehaving again?! lol seriously though, My friend who is English went to live in America a few years ago, and like the proverbial dumb foriegner that she was, she went fishing with her husband when she was pregnant. he wore waders but she was bare footed, as she waded out to help she noticed that there were snakes swimming around her legs, when she got back to the motel they were staying in, she told the owner and he said what were the snakes? she said she didn't know, so he got a book out, when she showed him the pictures, he nearly passed out! lol they were water moccasins! because she didn't panic, she was fine in the water, but I did laugh!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 30, 2011:

Hey Micky Dee, if I seen one of them things, I'd be out of the river in no time!!

Micky Dee on March 30, 2011:

Nice Wes. I've swum for miles and floated on the Edisto River right under these monsters sun-bathing. They are ominous!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 29, 2011:

Me too! Sick of Boston and NYC. I don't know about our starting pitching, but that's always sort of iffy. We've always got the offense, it seems.

I'll have to scout the Reds, I'm behind on the MLB knowledge that I used to always have at the top of my head.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 29, 2011:

Your getting MLB a day earlier than me. I might be able to catch that one though, I'll have to check. Tx opens against Boston on Friday at 3 p.m.

justom from 41042 on March 29, 2011:

I'll be watchin' for it. Reds vs. Brewers Thursday, opening day and I'm stoked!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 29, 2011:

Thanks Man! I'm working on one about the J.F.K. "secret society and Monolithic Conspiracy" speech, and how each of the last three scumbags in office have all talked about how "ridiculous" it is for Americans to believe in such things. . .

justom from 41042 on March 29, 2011:

He did a detailed hub with all kinds of retired military folks and others saying what happened would be impossible for a plane to do etc. It was really well done. I e-mailed him to find out if he did it or HP cronies and sure enough the cronies got him. They said it wasn't up to standards, which is total bullshit. Yeah, I just wanted to see who was payin' attention (the ?'s:-P)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 29, 2011:

Oh man, I read a great one by Micky last night, and saw that I had some catching up to do on his page.

What the hell did Micky Dee say that caused them to take one of his down? I figure that he's got to be a lot of people's favorite here.

LOL, questions about me???

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 28, 2011:

All's fair in love and fishing! If that effin snake would have just said something when I opened the cooler, I'd have looked the other way!

inmate702 on March 28, 2011:

You are right. If it's done in my terms, I would not mind it... But to have a snake, sneak in my cooler and eat my lunch, I would be totally upset...

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 28, 2011:

C'mon, Crin, somebody has to get the snake's snapshots, mugshots, etc!

inmate702 on March 28, 2011:

I was never a fan of fishing, but now you convinced me to stick to photography...

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