Agkistrodon conanti, the Florida cottonmouth;
Monroe county, Florida (14 March 2018).
My entire life I’ve been told —again and again— that cottonmouths are aggressive. I have yet to encounter or meet an aggressive cottonmouth, and I’ve encountered many cottonmouths. Instead, what I usually encounter is a cautious, shy, and defensive animal. When they don’t quickly retreat into the water or adjacent cover, they’ll simply hold their position and flash a defensive display, as seen in this image. Occasionally they’ll bluff-strike a bit, but that’s usually a last resort (when I get a bit too close for their comfort). Truly, the Florida cottonmouth is a misunderstood and misrepresented organism. It’s among the easiest serpent species to work with, but it’s also one I’m always very careful with. The Florida cottonmouth is, after all, venomous and always to be treated with utmost respect and due caution whenever encountered and observed.