Saturday, April 24, 2010


Whenever I'm out birding in long grass - even around the CyFair campus - I try to remember to watch out for snakes. However, I sometimes forget. Just as I sometimes forget that snakes don't hang out only in long grass.

When I was walking along a trail last Tuesday morning, I noticed a sudden movement under my feet. It was a large Water Moccasin. Before I had time to react, it slithered away into a nearby puddle and then swam off.

After I had grabbed a photo, I turned back and - nearly stepped right on another, smaller Moccasin lying on
the trail. Given that this is springtime, I suppose the snakes were a pair and I had interrupted them while they were sharing some quality time.

Unlike its larger partner, this snake didn't try to flee, perhaps because I was between it and the water. It let me take a few photos.

Then it decided I was getting too close and warned me off by opening its mouth wide and showing the white that gives the animal its common name, Cottonmouth.

As she closed her mouth, I was struck by how beautiful the patterning is on the underneath of the lower jaw was. I'd never noticed that before.

Cottonmouths have a reputation for being aggressive but I suspect they don't deserve it. In my experience, they generally react like other venomous snakes: They either make a hasty retreat or they go into defensive mode.

Of course, there are always exceptions. A few years ago I was videoing a Water Moccasin swimming along a small stream on Bolivar Peninsula. I walked along beside it for maybe 20 yards. Then suddenly it came out of the water and headed straight for me, hissing with mouth wide open. I had to back up very quickly. I imagine that the snake felt I was stalking it and so felt threatened.


Jayne said...

Yikes! I was out taking photos today and my husband yelled after me "what out for snakes." Glad I didn't see any, but that doesn't mean they weren't around. I'm glad you're okay and didn't get bitten.

Jeff said...

It's certainly worthwhile looking where you put your feet - and your hands (as snakes are often on branches). Good to make a bit of noise if you're going through long grass, too.