Cottonmouths, also called water moccasins, are some of the most misunderstood snakes in the southeastern United States. These heavy-bodied pit vipers are venomous and can produce extremely painful bites, but they are not aggressive snakes and pose little threat to humans if encountered in the wild.
In fact, cottonmouths tend to avoid confrontations with humans because they rely on them for food, so we have no reason to fear them as long as we’re careful when we’re near their habitats.
What is a cottonmouth snake?
Also known as a water moccasin, it is considered one of the most venomous snakes in North America. The cottonmouth snake is an aggressive species that feeds on fish, frogs, salamanders, birds and small mammals.
They are very common throughout many regions in Canada but are not common in much of United States due to habitat loss. Despite its aggressive nature, it rarely attacks humans because it does not view them as food sources.
Cottonmouths have been spotted in ponds, lakes, rivers and swamps throughout all parts of North America. Their venom is highly toxic and can be fatal if left untreated.
If you’re bitten by a cottonmouth snake seek medical attention immediately! Cottonmouths have triangular heads with vertical pupils (cat-like) along with dark brown or black bands around their bodies and necks.
They can grow up to 2 feet long! Be sure to read below for more information about these fascinating creatures!
Cottonmouth snakes are one of only two venomous snake species in Georgia. They have black, white, or copper-colored diamond-shaped patterns that run down their backs. Their bellies are a bright white color.
As small water snakes, they rarely grow longer than 24 inches long but can grow larger if they live in areas with more food sources. They also have some of the largest rear fangs of any North American snake; a bite from a cottonmouth can cause serious injury or even death to humans.
Cottonmouths are also popularly known as water moccasins (an alternative name for them), however, true water moccasins belong to a different genus and species than cottonmouths do.
So why does everyone call them water moccasins? It’s because people tend to confuse non-venomous water snakes with venomous cottonmouths. It’s easy to see how people get confused between these two types of snakes: they both look similar, both like living near bodies of water, and both feed on fish.
Is it endangered?
Like most wildlife, cottonmouth snakes are facing an uncertain future in today’s world. However, it is believed that they are not endangered species. In fact, many cottonmouth snakes (over half of them) exist in captivity as pets.
This keeps populations up and prevents too much poaching from happening due to popularity or desire to have one in a home or business.
Since they aren’t found on any protected lists as of yet, conservation efforts have been made by organizations like Zoos across America to keep cottonmouth snake numbers growing at healthy levels.
These animals are still hunted for their skins, but since there isn’t a huge demand for them anymore, their population has remained stable.
Where do cottonmouth snakes live?
The cottonmouth snake (Agkistrodon piscivorus) is a venomous, semi-aquatic snake species found throughout North America. Although it’s rare to find them near populated areas, they can be spotted on occasion in marshes, swamps, rivers, and creeks throughout their range.
Cottonmouths are mostly found in warmer climates where stagnant water pools for long periods of time. They’re most commonly found in Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas.
Because cottonmouths’ habitat is limited by water availability throughout much of their range in some parts of the country, these snakes tend to live near where humans do – swamps aren’t very interesting otherwise! If you see one in your yard or neighborhood, you may want to call it animal control.
These snakes are non-venomous but have a reputation for being aggressive when cornered or threatened. They will often hiss loudly at predators and bite repeatedly if provoked.
In fact, when cornered or threatened, all pit vipers – including rattlesnakes – will puff up their bodies with air and hiss loudly before striking out at whatever has been encroaching on its territory.
What is the history of cottonmouth snakes?
Long ago, Native Americans referred to cottonmouth snakes as water moccasins because of their toxicity. People have confused them with other venomous snakes for centuries due to their appearance.
Additionally, these animals are often found near water, which has led some people to believe that they prefer damp places. However, it’s likely that they live in water areas only because that’s where their prey is most abundant.
After all, although they may not be happy if left out in a dry environment for long periods of time, Cottonmouths usually prefer it humid or at least a little bit wet.
They can survive in many different environments and are very adaptable. They can also tolerate saltwater better than many other species of snake.
Are they aggressive or dangerous?
Cottonmouth snakes are often mistakenly considered to be aggressive, but they are actually quite timid, not aggressive at all. Don’t let their name fool you though – despite their shy nature, cottonmouths can still be dangerous to humans.
Even though these snakes lack venom that is lethal to people, they can deliver a nasty bite. In fact, an adult cottonmouth bite has enough force behind it to break the skin. Fortunately, not all bites will deliver harmful levels of venom.
As long as you leave them alone, there is little chance of being bitten by one. You should also know that even if you are bitten by a cottonmouth snake, most bites aren’t serious or life-threatening.
There have been no recorded deaths from cottonmouth snakebites in recent history (though there have been fatalities from copperhead snakebites).
Do they bite humans often?
Cottonmouth snakes (genus Agkistrodon) are indigenous to North America, with over 30 species in their genus. The cottonmouth is one of five venomous snakes found within the United States, which also include rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes.
Cottonmouths are pit vipers; they have a heat-sensitive patch on each side of their head that allows them to sense warm-blooded prey even in low light conditions.
Although bites from cottonmouths are not common, they can be extremely dangerous. Even so, there has never been a recorded fatality from an American cottonmouth bite in its natural habitat.
Have their populations increased?
As I mentioned above, while they are venomous, they’re not true poisonous snakes in that they don’t produce deadly toxins. Instead, they have potent hemotoxic venom (meaning it disrupts your blood).
Unfortunately, cottonmouth snakes are often killed due to fear or misunderstanding. If you spot one in your area do NOT take any chances. Notify experts and move away from it.
The best way to protect them is by educating people about how to protect themselves! They are beautiful animals that serve an important purpose as predators of smaller pests like rats, mice, and other small rodents;
so please don’t think of them as dangerous—only potentially so if you don’t know what you’re doing! Cottonmouths rarely bite humans, but when they do their bites can be fatal without immediate medical attention.
There are two types of cottonmouths: water moccasins and eastern cottonmouths. Both live throughout most of Florida and surrounding states with watery habitats.
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