Picture of a superior view of a potential cottonmouth mimic, the “southern water snake”, Nerodia fasciata. This image was used in a visual comparison with three species of cottonmouths, the “eastern cottonmouth” Agkistrodon p. piscivorus, (PHIL# 8125), the “Florida cottonmouth” Agkistrodon p. conanti, (PHIL# 8126), and the “western cottonmouth” Agkistrodon p. leucostoma, (PHIL # 8124).
N. fasciata is a snake whose habitat includes hurricane-prone regions of the United States, which is of importance to those who either live in these regions, or who might be deployed to such areas as a first-responder offering aid to those affected by such a disaster.
This snake, along with its venomous-counterparts, inhabits areas that are prone to hurricanes, and are encountered by first responders to these regions that have undergone an environmental disruption. It is paramount that those who might encounter this snake be able to identify it as a non-venomous, environmentally helpful reptile. The cottonmouth snakes display a distinct two-tone coloration, the spade-like shaped head, a lateral positioning of the eyes, vertically elliptical pupils, cheek stripes, and loreal pits. However, when compared with the water snake, it on the other hand has a distinctly triangular shaped head that is more arrow-head shaped rather than spade-like as in the cottonmouths. Also, many species of water snakes have large protruding eyes with distinctly round pupils that are medial to the lateral margins of the widened head, unlike any of the three cottonmouths. All of these features are helpful in the differentiating cottonmouths from water snakes in the field.
This image was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Edward J. Wozniak D.V.M., Ph.D., John Willson at the University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). [0003-0702-0313-4018] by 0003