Florida Cottonmouth vs Banded Water Snake

One of the most difficult two snakes to tell apart, are the Venomous Florida Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin) vs the Non-Venomous Banded Water Snake.

Body Types

The Venomous Florida Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin) has a body that is VERY thick and heavy for its length. They also have short thick tails.

The Banded Water snake has a long slim body. It is more slender in proportion to its length. They also have longer gradually decreasing tails that taper off to a point.

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Diagram of physical differences. Credit respectthesnake dot com

Head types

The head of the Banded Watersnake is slim and connects seamlessly to  the body, giving the appearance of no neck at all.  The head is truly more slender and elongated. When the snake feels threatened,  it flattens its head and body to appear more menacing. However, even then the head is still thin and not as blocky or thick as the Cottonmouth.
A large blocky head is that of the Venomous Cottonmouth- it is also thick top to bottom. Their necks are distinctly narrower from their head.


Florida Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin showing the whitish mouth interior.

The Banded is one of the most common snakes in Florida. You will find it in ponds. lakes, ditches, and rivers. Plus. it is often seen sunning itself on river and lake edges or in overhanging bushes. You would know for sure that the snake IS a venomous Cottonmouth if 1) when provoked it opens its mouth wide and shows the interior mouth and throat which are white. Also 2) when provoked, the Cottonmouth will twitch the tip of their tail. Banded water snakes do neither.

Watch the below video to see a Cottonmouth biting down on a Banded Water Snake– notice the difference in the head and neck areas as well as the length and width of the snakes bodies and tales.


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