Florida Cotton Mouth



Water Moccasin on Leaves
Adult Water Moccasin on Leaves


The Florida Cotton Mouth, also called a Water Moccasin or Cotton Mouthed Snake, is a venomous water snake. It is found primarily in the southern part of the United States. The Water Moccasin can be found in such states as Florida, Southern Virginia, and Eastern Texas. The snake lives close to water, or as far as 1/4 mile away from it. The Florida Cottonmouth likes fields, forests, marshes, swamps and drainage areas even rivers, ponds and lakes. They do like to sun themselves on the banks of these watery areas, however, most of their activity occurs at night.

Juvenile Water Moccasin
Juvenile Water Moccasin with Bright Coloring


It is important to understand the range of appearance that the Cottonmouth can have over the course of it’s life. When they are born they have a wavy banded pattern in bright orange and brown with a yellow tip on the tail. As they  mature, the pattern often fades away and the animal darkens, eventually getting to a range from dark brown through olive green and even jet-black. Occasionally, the juvenile color pattern will remain throughout the snake’s life. One thing that the adults and juveniles have in common is the bandit’s mask which is a dark brown to black line that runs through the eye, bordered above and below with white. So no matter what their body markings are, you can recognize them by their “eye line.”

Their distincitve head is triangular, and blocky, and they have a thick body.

There are several non-venomous snakes that can easily be mis-identified as a Cottonmouth. In the water, the Cottonmouth floats very high, with most of its body visible above the water line. The non-venomous water snakes are not as bouyant, swimming with little more than head and neck exposed.

Water Moccasin floating on top of Water
Water Moccasin floating on top of Water


While bites from water moccasins aren’t overly common, it can be extremely dangerous when they do happen. It is possible that it will even kill its victim. Water moccasins are pit vipers, just as rattlesnakes are. This means that their venom is hemotoxic and can lead to huge problems of the red blood cells and tissues. Their veom can actually prevent blood from clotting, and this can result in hemorrhages.

The Cottonmouth will eat almost any kind of animal material. This might include small alligators, turtles, fish, amphibians, birds, rodents, eggs and other snakes.


Cottonmouth with it’s head cocked at the typical 45 degree angle and showing the distinctive white and brown eye line.


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When Water Moccasins feel afraid and defensive, they will display this through their body language. When they are scared, they open their mouth up to about a 45 degree angle to expose the interior- a cottony white color and fangs. They will further intimidate by thrashing their tails side to side. It is possible that they will give off an unpleasant odor. They have the ability to strike in or out of the water. It is recommended that you always stay as far away as possible from water moccasins and any other snakes that you see out in nature.

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