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Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin)
The Cottonmouth is named for the silky white lining of its mouth which it shows off during defensive displays like this one. It is the only venomous aquatic snake found in North America.
The scientific name means “Fish-hook-tooth Fish-eater” but this ambush predator eats more than fish. It will also eat mammals, amphibians, arthropods, and reptiles (even smaller Cottonmouths); almost anything that will fit in its mouth.
Juvenile Cottonmouths are brightly colored, but as the snakes mature they get darker and darker. Some adults appear almost black.
Though Cottonmouths (also known as Water Moccasins) have a reputation of being aggressive snakes, they would rather flee than fight. Watch this video to see a juvenile Cottonmouth “dancing” away in a dramatic retreat display.
Photographed in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, in coastal North Carolina during our American Safari.