NC Snake Pictures / Cottonmouth or Water Moccassin

Agkistrodon piscivorus

Venomous; 30-72 inches (760 to 1,800 mm); found in and by water in eastern NC.
distribution map
Distribution key: blue=where snake is found

Although very scarce in the North Carolina Piedmont, they are found in eastern North Carolina & most of South Carolina. The Cottonmouth snake feeds at night on fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles. Note the identifying stripe along the side of the head; even in dark-colored individuals, this stripe is usually visible. Like most of our venomous snakes, the cottonmouth has "cat's eye" pupils, and pits between the eye and the nostril. Unlike the nonvenomous water snakes with which it is often confused, the cottonmouth's eyes do not protrude above the head, and cannot be seen if looking down at the top of the snake. Many of our nonvenomous snakes are mistaken for Cottonmouths, particularly the brown water snake.

Cottonmouth snakes are often found in or near swamps, ditches, rivers, streams and lakes of eastern North Carolina. It swims with its head held well above the water surface. Avoid this snake! It may prefer to flee rather than strike, but its bite is more toxic than a copperhead snake's bite and can be fatal. During August and September, the adult female cottonmouth will give birth to between 1 and 15 live young. They do not lay eggs, and the young are not cared for by the parent.

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Picture provided by Karl Betz.