The cottonmouth can grow to four feet and like all vipers, has a distinctive, triangular head. It has two, very different defense mechanisms: one sinister, and one just disgusting.
The first, of course, is its hemotoxic venom. It’s hollow, hooked fangs deliver this potent venom which destroys blood cells and tissue and prevents clotting. If untreated, a bite from a cottonmouth can be deadly for a human, although fatalities are rare and anti-venom treatment is highly effective.
The second is less deadly, but really stinky. When threatened, the snake can squirt out a strong, pungent secretion from anal glands near the base of its tail. This “musk” has been described as smelling something like a combination of “sweaty gym shorts” and “billy-goat.” Gross.
The Cottonmouth, or “agkistrodon piscivorus” is a reptile in the Family viperidae and is related to the copperhead and the Mexican cantil.
It can be found in the Southeastern United States, as far North as Virginia and throughout Florida.
It is the world’s only semi-aquatic viper, preferring swamps, marshes and shallow lakes.
The cottonmouth feeds primarily on fish and frogs, although it is known to eat small mammals and even baby alligators.
Chew on this:
The cottonmouth gets his name from the white flesh covering the inside of its mouth. When threatened, opens wide to show his fangs. This means you’d better back off! It’s also a great swimmer, which is why it is sometimes called the water moccasin. The snake’s hemotoxic venom packs a serious punch, helping it subdue its prey, like this unlucky leopard frog.