Cottonmouths, also called water moccasins, get their name from the white lining of their mouths, which they will show when agitated.
Cottonmouths hold some prey in their jaws allowing their venom to take hold, but some prey, mainly those that will fight back, are struck and then released. The snakes will then follow the scent of this prey if the small animal runs away. In the wild, cottonmouths eat a variety of animals, including fish, turtles, birds, and mammals.
As pit vipers, cottonmouths have heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils. They are able to detect temperature differences of less than two degrees and this allows them to accurately strike out at prey.
Females produce up to 12 living young once every two years. Because cottonmouths are oviviparous, the eggs develop and hatch within the body of the female. While adult cottonmouths are black or olive green, juveniles are brightly colored.
© MSA 2005
Range: southeastern United States
Habitat: wetlands, lakes, rivers
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