Friday, May 12, 2017

Snake Identification Challenge of The Week: Water Snakes or Cottonmouths?

Dr. Steen:

I came across your blog while trying to identify this snake. Is this a cottonmouth or a harmless water snake? I was too scared to go any closer. Found it in our backyard. I have additional pics but these are the clearest. Thank you for your help.

Hina N.

Hello David,

I was wandering out in my yard in Palm Harbor, FL (Tampa Bay Area) and I came across the below photo’d snake.  We do live on a pond, so the first thing that came to mind was water moccasin.  I know the pictures aren’t the greatest, sorry.  I have small children and a small dog so I just want to know if I need to have everyone on high alert or not.  Thanks for your help!

Matt K.

Can you identify this snake found in Eastern Kansas please?

Thank you,
Joy M.

Killed in Cottondale FL (NW FL), juvenile I think or small anyway.  They took picture after they buried the head.

Jamie C.

Could you please help identify this snake. People in our neighborhood are debating and people are determining it is a banded water snake and being nonvenomous. I believe it to maybe be a water moccasin  (cotton mouth).
Thanks in advance for any help.

Codie M.


Hope you're doing well. I found your site fascinating! I'm terrible at identifying snakes and thought I'd see if you had time to identify a snake I saw stranded on some rocks by a boardwalk near the Chesapeake in Southern Maryland. It looked like it had some scratches/wounds so I thought maybe a bird had dropped it there (didn't seem a typical spot for a snake with salt water encroaching). I wanted to try lifting it up but some people around were concerned it might be a baby copper head. Hopefully it found its way off the beach on its own. Sorry the photos are cell and not great. No worries if you don't have time/photos aren't good enough. Thank you!


What Are These Snakes?

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the point of these posts.

-This is not a pop quiz, any kind of research is encouraged and I hope you will engage with other commenters to try to figure these snakes out. I will eventually chime in with my thoughts.

-Assume I know what kind of snake is in the picture. I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed. Don't hate, educate.

Enjoy what you read and learn here? 

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