Are Water Moccasins Poisonous? Watching Out For Water Snakesss

Aashita Dhingra
Jan 24, 2024 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Oct 31, 2021
Water moccasin resting on forest floor.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.0 Min

Can a snake bite from water moccasins kill you? Here are some answers to your worrying questions.

Snakes have a great role in keeping the ecosystem stabilized. There are a variety of snake types and species on our planet. Did you know it is illegal to kill a snake unless it is posing an immediate life-threatening threat?

Even snakes seem scary and threatening, they can be innocent and non-poisonous as well. Most people in this world have difficulty identifying poisonous and non-venomous snakes. A lot of similarities can be found between both types. Snake bites are always a matter of concern when it comes to hikers and forest adventurers. One of the important things that you should be aware of is what to do in order to avoid getting bitten by snakes, and if you are a victim of snake bites, what to do next. In this article, you will learn about water moccasins, their bites, and how to deal with them. After you have read all about the eastern watersnake, do check our articles about if black snakes are poisonous and if corn snakes are poisonous.

How do you identify a water moccasin?

Most northern water snakes are non-venomous. If you see a northern water snake, you don’t have to worry about it biting. Please don’t kill these innocent snakes in the wild. Try to shoo it away, or it probably will go away on its own. But if you see a water moccasin, it is probably going to stay there curled up. You should be careful when you encounter a water moccasin, as it is venomous and has fangs with venom glands.

Snake pupils can help us to identify a snake's type. A snake with a round pupil in its eye does not mean it is not venomous but it just means it is not a pit viper. A beautiful red color pattern can be found on its body, which most north water snakes have too. Their body scale pattern changes from single scales on the tummy to double scale patterns on the skin to the tail. Up to the belly vent, they have single scales on their body. After the vent, they have split scales that are double scales on their body to the tail.

The water moccasin has fangs. You can also notice two holes in the snakehead, which act as nostrils in the water moccasin. Right behind the nostrils, you can find a heat pit by their eyes. Water moccasins have yellow shaded cat-like eyes with narrow pupils. The water moccasin is a type of pit viper, having pits and fangs. Cat-like eyes are a special feature of pit vipers, rattlesnakes, and copperhead species snakes as well. Water moccasins have single scales all over their body and skin, before and after the vent, unlike northern water snakes. Just like north water snakes, water moccasins can also flatten their body, and change their snake head shapes to look more like pit vipers. They are born with this form of mimicry created in them to help protect themselves. You can see a pattern on the side scales of the water moccasin skin, which is completely brown in color. Water moccasins are venomous snakes, unlike other snakes that are non-venomous or poisonous. If you were to cut their head off, peel their skin off, and take their guts out, you could cook this snake and eat it, as it is not poisonous. But they are venomous as they have venom glands on the back of their head, connecting all the way to their fangs.

The cottonmouth and water moccasin, are they the same snake?

In the wild, if you see a water moccasin, it might be sitting there unmoving, curled up. You should be careful while dealing with a water moccasin, as it is venomous and has fangs with venom glands. It might be sitting there and opening its mouth wide, showing its nice light-colored mouth, which has a color similar to that of cotton. Due to their mouth color pattern, water moccasins have the name of ‘cottonmouth’ as well. Other water snakes have the ability to change their body shape for the purpose of protection.

A Water Moccasin in a creek.

A water snake's favorite food includes catfish and bullfrogs. Yellow-bellied water snakes can easily distinguish themselves as dark-colored water moccasins. Cottonmouth snakes have vertical pupils in their eyes. The cottonmouth snake, also known as a water moccasin, is one of the most famous venomous snakes in Houston and Virginia. Cottonmouth snakes are water-specific. You can find them mostly in water regions or aquatic areas. Cottonmouth snakes have a thick body with a dark chocolate color on their back. The color gets darker as the snake gets older. As these water moccasins are mostly found in lakes and swamps, they find it difficult to move on the ground. Upon close inspection, you can see Hershey's kiss-shaped markings on the side. One way in which we can identify a water moccasin or a cottonmouth from other water snakes is by the coloration difference among them. Scale designs are pretty different for different snake types as well. The water moccasin with its thick body got its name cottonmouth from the white lining which is visible inside its mouth. Also, the water moccasin name is given due to its dark tan, brown or black skin with a variable pattern of brown or black crossbands, which pretty much resembles a moccasin design style.

Can a water moccasin bite kill you?

The semi-aquatic water moccasin snake is known to be a venomous snake. These cottonmouths come from the Agkistrodon piscivorus family. This reptile species has large heads in a triangular shape. Mostly found near lakes and swamps, they can jump out at you if they feel like you are going to attack. That is how they show their aggressive defensive display. The rare cross bands design can be used to identify this snake. Call for help if you think the snake is coming to attack you or if you feel threatened. Defensive fangs in the mouth of Agkistrodon piscivorus species have poisonous venom glands. If you face a snake strike or bite you can encounter serious problems, and the bite can kill you, so seek immediate help.

The aggressive display and strike of water moccasins and other rattlesnake species of the Agkistrodon family can immediately cause swelling and other symptoms. Immediate medical attention is required for emergency cases. The triangular-shaped snakehead genus is rare to find in dryland regions. Rattlesnakes and pit vipers are common species. Venom glands attached to fangs make the bite of these cottonmouths or water moccasin snakes more poisonous and dangerous. Mostly found in the North American range, these venomous snakes are also found near north, south, southeastern or southwest, or central Texas and USA range, where other turtles and mammals species can be found. In eastern-central Texas, you can find various snake species like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperhead species snakes, and more. Juvenile cottonmouth snakes have bright yellow tail tips which they wiggle in order to get prey. Older adult cottonmouth snakes are more dark brown-black in color. This snake jumps out suddenly and bites its prey to get control of its prey.  Like rattlesnakes, they also try to avoid places with immense heat and are mostly found in humid regions near water or in water bodies.

Preventing Snake Bites

Venomous snakes like cottonmouth species, rattlesnakes, and copperheads may come near you and show aggressive behavior. Other than their aggressive behavior, cottonmouth snakes species seldom bite unless they find prey, have been picked up or stepped on, or feel threatened. The bitten area on your body might feel severe pain and you may feel symptoms of body heat rising into a fever. Sometimes you may encounter these cottonmouths out there looking for their prey. You can get its bites on your legs if you are not careful around regions where a lot of cottonmouths and rattlesnakes are seen in their habitats.

During emergency situations that you have no control of, it is advised to get medical attention as soon as possible. Sometimes you feel severe pain in the bitten region after the strike of a cottonmouth and there are symptoms that determine if the bite can kill you or not. You can prevent the bite of cottonmouths and other snakes. While going for a hike or a walk in the forest, wearing boots and long pants can help to block a bite and the resulting venom from a rattlesnake or a cottonmouth. Hidden places under bushes, weeds and logs are where you can find snakes hiding. It is better to take trails that are away from swampy areas to avoid cottonmouth bites. If you encounter a snake in front of you, never touch it or disturb it. It probably will go away on its own if you don’t go near it and stay calm. Before pulling out a big rock or log, always check for snakes below or inside it. Having someone with you while hiking is useful in case of an emergency.

What do you do if you get bitten by a water moccasin?

If you get bitten by cottonmouths or water moccasins, call 911 or any other emergency medical services immediately. A cottonmouth's bite can be so poisonous that it could even kill you if you are not provided medical care in time. The powerful venom of cottonmouths is to be taken seriously. Cottonmouths are a part of the pit viper family. We can’t control these wild snakes. Their bites are out of our control. They can bite us when they are provoked. As per reports, venomous bites are mostly done by snakes in the family of Crotalinae.

Cottonmouths with a high acting venom can cause local destruction of tissue, causing inflammatory symptoms and signs. Patients are advised to avoid mechanical venom extraction. No heat or cold should be applied to the affected region. Whenever you encounter a snake bite from a venomous snake, you should get away from the place immediately as the snake might bite you again or there might be other snakes in close proximity. You should then remove all the clothing and jewelry from the area of the bite before it swells up. Never panic and remain calm. Position yourself to help the heart level get lower than the bite area so there is less blood supply to and from the venom-induced region. You can clean the bite by flushing with water. Cover your body tightly above the region, preventing the venom in the blood from flowing to other body parts as well. Never drink alcohol or caffeine as it has the capability to cause absorption of more venom into the body.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are water moccasins poisonous then take a look at are garden snakes poisonous or water moccasin facts.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

Aashita Dhingra picture

Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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