Spring Break 2018: The Florida Cottonmouth

Agkistrodon conanti, the Florida cottonmouth
aka Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti;
Monroe county, Florida (14 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

Lest we forget this big strap of snake in our massive and sprawling Spring Break 2018 series. This is a defensively-postured Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon conanti (aka Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti), demonstrating how and why it earned its common name. When threatened, the Florida cottonmouth will sometimes coil up a bit and tilt its head upwards — flashing and gaping its mouth in a defensive posture. Though people love to talk about how aggressive cottonmouths generally are, that simply has never been my experience. Of all the Florida cottonmouths I’ve worked with over the years (and there have been many), I’ve never once had one act “aggressively.” If anything, this is an extremely defensive and shy snake. They’re quick to retreat and quick to hide. When they can’t, they’re quick to take a defensive stance such as this one in hopes that the threat will soon pass. I think some people confuse defensiveness with aggression when it comes to cottonmouths (and snakes more generally). Give them space, awareness, and respect, and the cottonmouth will do everything it can to avoid conflict.

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