The Cottonmouth, or water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous), is a venomous snake which is closely related to the copperhead. It is a pit viper, with a heat-sensing organ in its nose that allows it to locate warm blooded prey. The cottonmouth is a very aggressive snake, and, unlike most snakes (including the copperhead) when startled the cottonmouth will stand its ground and open its mouth (“gape” or “smile”). Water moccasins have been known to actually approach and attack intruders. The bite of a cottonmouth is hemotoxic, causing severe necrosis near the site of the wound and eventual death in the victim if treatment is not received promptly. These snakes are good climbers, and they will frequently sun themselves in the branches of trees.

This snake is a dull brown/gray in color with distinctive yellow bordered patterns. As the snake grows older, its colors become mutede, leaving it with a muddy gray/black. Its young are born live. The cottonmouth’s range is confined to the southern United States, with the northernmost population occurring in southern Illinois.

Because of the aggressiveness of the snake, the danger of its bite, and the way that its coloration changes with age, many harmless snakes (particularly water snakes of the genus Nerodia) are killed from the mistaken belief that they are cottonmouths. The cottonmouth range is in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Southern Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Southern Illinois
  • Southwestern Indiana
  • Southeastern Iowa
  • Southwestern Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Southern Missouri
  • Eastern North Carolina
  • Western Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Western Tennessee
  • Eastern Texas
  • Eastern Virginia
  • Coastal Maryland