The Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon conanti, a venomous species, isn’t exactly rare. They’re fairly abundant in various pockets and habitats throughout peninsular Florida. Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such density of cottonmouths as in south Florida. Collier, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties nearly always present a variety of cottonmouths from young to old. Our Spring Break 2018 sojourn south certainly yielded a sweet, though modest, array of cottonmouths.
Featured here is a young Florida cottonmouth exhibiting fairly typical defensive behavior. Though this particular cottonmouth held back from gaping its white, cottony mouth in a defensive display, it certainly still struck the pose: Coil up and stare straight on with utter conviction. Heh. Pretty soon, however, the young, venomous snake decided it had enough of the big, lumbering hominids staring down at it. Quickly enough, it beat a retreat off the road and back into the bushes.
As always, Florida cottonmouths are not aggressive snakes. Though they can be rather determined in going where they want to go, one should not confuse their stubbornness as being aggression. Of all the cottonmouths I’ve worked with (and there have been many), not a single one has been what I would call “aggressive.” This little camper struck out a few times, of course, but that’s a defensive behavior — not aggression. As usual, this cottonmouth certainly didn’t chase me around with deliberation. That’s just not how they think and behave.
Because they are venomous, however, people should always treat Florida cottonmouths with due respect and consideration. Give them space, and they’ll move on. Try to catch or kill them, and you stand a better chance of being bitten and/or envenomated. Just give them a bit of room, and everything will be just fine.