• Like water snakes, cottonmouths are always found close to a water source.Read More
  • Smaller and younger cottonmouths has a peculiar preference for small lizards!Read More
  • Cottonmouth snakes have broad flat heads and elongated pupils.Read More
  • Its eggs hatches inside the females body so that they give live birth.Read More
  • Cottonmouths hibernate for several months in so called hibernacula
    Read More
  • When hunting, they start by injecting venom into their prey, let it go, and then they hunt it down.
    Read More
  • Cottonmouth venom is good at preventing blood clotting allowing its prey to bleed.
    Read More
  • The Latin name of cottonmouth snakes (Agkistrodon piscivorus) means fish eater.
    Read More
  • The cottonmouth mouth has a white coloration inside. This is why its name is cotton mouth.Read More
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Bites, venom and trailing prey

By Anders Nielsen, Ph.d.

The Cottonmouth snake is a so called pit-viper and it is capable of delivering a rather painful bite. Fatalities from Cottonmouth bites are rare, and from the average of six annual fatalities from venomous snakebites in the US, Cottonmouths are seldom responsible for any deaths. These snakes are, generally speaking, not aggressive.

However, 2008 is a considerable exception as an army trainee died from several cottonmouth bitesduring a training session in North Carolina.

The poison from Cottonmouth snakes is hemotoxic. A hemotoxic compound destroys blood cells, and prevents blood clotting. Its bite results in hemorrhage in those parts of the body where the venom penetrates.

Chiscar et al. (1986)1 showed that Cottonmouth snakes usually release adult rodents after striking them - even though other types of prey are most often held. After the strike, the cottonmouth would then release the rodent, only to trail it down at a later point.

Following a bite, all animals display an immediate papillary contraction that only last for a brief period of time.

An effect observed on frogs in a study by Gennaro et al. (2007)2 was complete lung collapse. This result is an inarguable effect that facilitates prey capture when the prey is amphibians, such as frogs.

1. Chiszar, D. et al. Trailing Behavior in Cottonmouths. Journal of Herpteology 20(2) pp. 269-272 (1986)
2. Gennaro, JF. et al. Neurotropic effects of venoms and other factors that promote prey acquisition. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part a Ecological Genetics and Physiology 307A(9) pp. 488-499 (2007)
3. Glaudas, X et al. Migration patterns in a population of cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) inhabiting an isolated wetland. Journal of Zoology 271(2) pp. 119-124
4. Gibbons, JW. & Dorcas, ME. Snakes of the Southeast. (2005) University of Georgia Press

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