Agkistrodon (piscivorus) conanti, 19 March 2015

Agkistrodon (piscivorus) conanti, the Florida cottonmouth;
Monroe county, Florida (19 March 2015).

The Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon conanti, is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented snake in North America. I’ve heard story after story how cottonmouths chase people down and the like. In reality, however, this is a fairly conservative species. Venomous? Oh, yes. Aggressive? Not in the slightest. They will, however, stand their ground and put up quite a defensive show (as this one did). In fact, the name “cottonmouth” is derived from the defensive display you see in some of these photographs. Other times, Cottonmouths will simply head straight to the water to escape potential danger. This might be where some of the confusion arises, actually… If you happen to be between the snake and the water, the Florida cottonmouth may head straight in your direction (sometimes). This is not aggression, however… The snake is simply trying to flee land and seek safety in the water. For all the Cottonmouths I’ve photographed and worked with over the years, I’ve come across some stubborn ones to be sure, but I’ve never encountered an “aggressive” one. Their reputation far exceeds their actuality! Of note, this species is also classified with a subspecies designation by many: Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti. I’m not smart enough to make much of an argument one way or the other, so I’ll leave that debate to those better in-the-know.

 

Learn more about the Florida cottonmouth.

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