Conservation Status - Vulnerable
Scientific Name
Agkistrodon piscivorus
Southeast Virginia
Also Known As
Water Moccasin, Black Snake, Highland Moccasin
Birds, Fish, Mammals, and Snakes
Dark/Olive Color with Hourglass Bands
Litter Size
10 to 20 per Birth
Life Span
10 Years
2.5 - 4 Feet

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Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin Description


The Cottonmouth Snake also known as the Water Moccasin is a venomous semi-aquatic snake located in Southeastern Virginia. Due to this, these snakes can be found in the water or can be found basking in the sun on dry land. The most prominent feature of the Cottonmouth is its white mouth which has the color of cotton.

Cottonmouths have a triangular head which is not a great way for identification as they tend to flatten their heads when they sense danger. They have a main brown or yellowish color with dark bands that go around their belly. They also have a dark stripe that runs from the back of the eye to the corner of the jaw, which is good way to distinguish them from water snakes.

The adults tend to have more solid coloration over time which mimics wet leaves in the water the juveniles are more colorful and have a bright yellow tail which is used to attract prey. The tail goes from yellow to green to black as they age.


The normal length for Cottonmouths is between 24 and 48 inches long. With females generally being larger than males, however, males tend to have a larger tail. Juvenile cottonmouths are usually 8-12 inches long

Cottonmouth Snake here in Virginia

Cottonmouth also known as a Water Moccasin with it’s distinctive white mouth.

The Cottonmouth displays this mouth when threatened

Myth: Cottonmouths and Water Moccasins Will Chase You


Cottonmouths are actually very slow when on land, and the cottonmouth will not risk injury to fight a large animal like a human. Cottonmouths prefer for ambush in the water and very rarely bite humans even when stepped on. Odds are if the cottonmouth is heading in your direction, then it is most likely trying to head to safety and you just happen to be in it’s path. But treat this snake with caution as it is indeed venomous, and while the odds are low, a bite can still happen.

Cottonmouth Behavior

These snakes have a reputation to be very dangerous, and rightfully so. Their venom is extremely dangerous, and you must go to the hospital immediately if bitten. However, Cottonmouths rarely bite people they will only bite if they are touched or stepped on by humans.

If a Cottonmouth is threatened then they will expose the white of their cotton-white mouths to the threat. If you see a snake showing this behavior stay away!

These snakes are active day and night, where they bask in the sun during the day and hunt at the night. These snakes hibernate in the Winter and choose to sleep in burrows made by other animals. These burrows they sleep in are usually Tortoise or Crayfish burrows.

Cottonmouth and Water Moccasin Range and Habitat

Cottonmouth and Water Moccasin Range

Cottonmouths can be found in Southeastern Virginia. Cottonmouth Snakes as a whole can be found across the Southern United States. They can be found from East Texas to Southeastern Virginia. There are two species of cottonmouth which are found in the south. The Northern Cottonmouth and the Florida Cottonmouth as it name states is found in Florida.


Cottonmouths prefer the water and can be found in freshwater habitats. They are most common in floodplains, swamps, and wetlands, which makes southeastern Virginia ideal. However, they can be found far from permanent water areas

Virginia Cottonmouth Snake Map Range

Cottonmouths Range covers Southeastern Virginia. They tend to be found near rivers and lakes.


Cottonmouths or Water Moccasins are known as opportunistic feeders. This means that if they see an opportunity to catch and eat prey, they will not hesitate to strike. They do not care about what the prey is, as long as it doesn’t give them too much trouble.

Cottonmouths eat both land and water animals including amphibians, lizards, snakes (this includes other cottonmouths), turtles, baby alligators, birds, and mammals, but their favorite to eat is fish.

Myth: Cottonmouths Cannot Bite Underwater


Cottonmouths main diet consists of aquatic animals and insects, with the occasional snake in between. This means that the Cottonmouth needs to catch their prey underwater, making the idea that they cannot bite underwater a false notion. However, cottonmouths do not actively try to attack swimming people in the water and prefers to flee rather than bite.

Cottonmouth Snakes Reproduction and Young


Cottonmouth Snakes mate from April – May. Cottonmouths have a ritual where the males wave their tails and move around like a dance to lure potential mates. Fights between males are common during the mating dance.

Eggs and Young

Cottonmouths give birth in the late summer or in the fall usually from 10 to 20 babies. They do not lay eggs, so if you find any eggs on your property be at ease that they are not Water Moccasins. This is because they are ovoviviparous which means that the eggs are hatched in the body of the mother. Young Cottonmouth Snakes have yellow tips on their tails. These are used to mimic caterpillars to attract fish and other aquatic prey, until they get large enough to hunt larger prey.

When born Water Moccasins will leave and strike out on their own.

Juvenile Cottonmouth with its distinctive yellow tail.

Cottonmouth Venom and Danger

Venom Effects of Water Mocassin

Cottonmouth venom rarely leads to death however you must go to the hospital immediately if bit. A Cottonmouth bite can lead to an allergic reaction and infection, which will lead to death or amputation.

Cottonmouth venom will lead to these symptoms:

  • Rapid redness/Swelling around the bite
  • Extreme Debilitating Pain
  • Increased Heart rate
  • Getting hard to breathe
  • Numbness or tingling around the mouth, tongue, scalp, feet, or the bite area.
  • Increase of Salivation and Perspiration
  • Numbness of limbs and face
  • Having signs of Shock
    • Passing out (losing consciousness).
    • Feeling very dizzy or lightheaded, like you may pass out.
    • Slow thinking and not being alert. You may be confused, restless, fearful, or unable to respond to questions.
    • Feeling weak or having trouble standing
Caught Cottonmouth Snake or Water Moccasin

Caught Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin Snake. Do not try to capture them yourself!

If You Have Been Bitten by a Cottonmouth Snake

  • Stay Calm an increased heart-rate will pump your blood faster which will make the venom spread throughout the body faster.
  • Take a Photo or Video of the Snake this will lead dispatch to know what snake has bit you which will help get the right antivenin to you. If you can’t write down or make a note of the size, color, and patterns of the snake
  • Dial 911. Do Not Drive Yourself to the Hospital Dizziness and passing out is a very common symptom from snake bites.
  • Lay or Sit down. Be Comfortable
  • Keep Bite Below Heart This will make the venom fight gravity to reach your heart.
  • Remove Rings and Watches The swelling from the bite can cause swelling, which can lead to circulatory issues from watches and rings

Myth: Cutting and Sucking Out the Venom Helps Snake Bites


Sucking the venom out of a bite is a futile effort, as by the time that you get to it a lot of the venom would be already spread out. Plus cutting and sucking will lead to an infection, which will make it more likely for the bite to be fatal.

Identifying a Cottonmouth and Water Moccasin

Cottonmouths tend to get confused with harmless snakes a lot here in Virginia. Are you unsure if you have a Cottonmouth on your property? Follow this guide, so you won’t get confused!


Just like their cousins the copperhead, cottonmouths have hourglass bands on their backs. This means that the patterns will get thinner near their spine, and wider on the sides leading to the belly.

It is important to note, that the older a cottonmouth is the more solid the coloration they get. That means that the pattern will get harder if not impossible to see the older the snake is. However, with juveniles, they have a sulfur color on the tip of their tail.

If you see a snake with a sulfur color on the tip of their tail avoid it! It could either be a Copperhead or a Water Moccasin.

Pattern of the Cottonmouth


What sets Cottonmouths apart from Copperheads is their darker color. Cottonmouths tend to be a dark green/Olive color to almost black coloration. Their bands also tend to be dark brown or black as well.

But the easiest way to identify is the color of the inside of their mouths. Cottonmouths, have a white cotton color to the inside of their mouths, as their name states. Cottonmouths will show their mouths when threatened. So if any snake displays this behavior and has a white mouth stay away!

Cottonmouth Comparison

Click on the image to increase the size

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