Snake identification

I have either a water mocassin or a king snake in the water garden
Dark body, yellow ventral, somewhat triangular head. haven’t gotten close enough to see the eyes. :slight_smile:
I’ve googled to no avail; does anyone have a link to show the heads of the two species side by side?


Have you seen it swimming? If the body is underwater with just the head sticking up it’s most likely a common water snake, (non-poisonous.)

If the whole body seems to be floating on the surface-could be a mocassin.

Water mocassins are also prone to standing thier ground and being very slow to retreat. Most other snakes will want to vanish as soon as possible.

Here’s a link to some good moccasin pics.
Don’t step here!

I’m a city kid but I believe a king snake (harmless) most closely resembles a coral snake (poisonous).

There’s a rhyme to differentiate the two:

Red touches black ? You’re all right, Jack.
Red touches yellow ? You’re a dead fellow.

The former refers to the king snake, the latter, the coral snake.

I found those; he sure looks like that.
I’d like to compare the head shape side by side.

For comparison photos, try entering “cottonmouth head” into Google™ Images, then entering “king snake.” (There are more than one variety of snake identified as “king snake,” apparently. I was more familiar with the ones mentioned in wolf_meister’s rhyme, but there are also some varieties that do not have the distinctive ring pattern and are closer in appearance to the cottonmouth.)

With the yellow ventral stripe and especially with the triangular head (a common feature among North American venomous snakes), I suspect that you might have a cottonmouth.

Yes, but non-poisonous water snakes can also be quite reluctant to retreat, and even pugnacious.

I believe you but I’ve never encountered one (common water snake) that acted that way and I meet up with lots of them. I’ve only encountered a few (10-15) moccasins and they’ve all acted that way.

There are indeed a number of different kinds of king snakes. The kind wolf_meister is thinking of is a scarlet king snake.

I’m not looking to argue, but I’ve encountered plenty of aggressive water snakes. They have a reputation for this. Google “water snake aggressive” and you’ll see what I mean.

And here’s a cite describing aggressive behavior of (non-poisonous) water snakes, which are often confused with water moccasins.

" It turns out that the water snakes may be the reason that people are so worried about attacks from the relatively non-aggressive water moccasin."

That quote from your cite leads me to question everything else in the article.

" Here is the culprit behind the myth of the “cottonmouth that swam to the boat and tried to attack us.” Like all snakes in the Nerodia family, the Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) is very aggressive and also very territorial. This one will defend its hunting grounds vigorously and with markings similar to a cottonmouth’s, he can easily be confused for one. He will also bite repeatedly, which is uncharacteristic of a water moccasin. The wound from a bite (or bites) from this fellow will bleed profusely as his saliva has anti-coagulant properties."

Honestly, I’ve caught hundreds of these in my life, in N.Indiana and Michigan. I often relocate them from my mom’s lake because her neighbors kill them on sight. I move them to a more remote creek. They will absolutely bite when you grab them but you have to be quick or sneaky to catch one and the bites, even from larger ones resemble a series of pin pricks and no additional bleeding than what a pin would cause. I’ve caught similar non-poisonous water snakes in Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas. I’m a river kayaker so I encounter quite a few. None exhibited aggressive behaviour before I actually grabbed them. The moccasins I’ve seen were in Arkansas and either stayed put or approached slowly when confronted. When I extended a paddle towards the (small) ones that were on the rocks or banks, they struck at it (repeatedly) so hard that they almost seemed to leap off the ground. But did not retreat until they were sure we weren’t backing off either. The big ones I gave wide berth to, they were in the water and took a very aggressive posture when they spotted us.

I’m not looking for an argument either, no cite war, just trying to pass along my personal experience. :wink:

He was stuck in the netting that covers the pool. This has been a problem with snakes in the past, but I want to protect the fish from a hawk.

I went out this afternoon to kill him, and he was gone.


Now I don’t have the moral question of killing a possibly harmless snake because I’m a wuss, I have to wonder if a water mocassin lives in the ground ivy that surrounds my lily pool. :rolleyes:

Maybe a coon ate him…

Again, River Hippie, I am not trying to be argumentative, but I have more than a little experience with water snakes and moccasins myself. I’ve had close encounters with hundreds of water snakes of various varieties, including capture of many of them. (They are very common in these parts, and I grew up in the country, spending much of my youth around lakes, ponds and rivers.)

I have seen water snakes swim right up to a boat and try to climb in. I have seen them stand their ground and strike rather than retreat (in contrast to other non-poisonous snakes). I have seen captured water snakes strike repeatedly at the side of a terrarium, trying to get at their captor (something other non-poisonous snakes just don’t do). I have seen many people with shaky knowledge of snakes mistake water snakes for water moccasins precisely because the water snakes behave so aggressively. (And really, I don’t mean to challenge you or question your knowledge of snakes, but I want to suggest that even you may be mistaking aggressive water snakes for water moccasins. They can be very similar in appearance, and it is a common mistake.)

In short, my personal experience with water snakes has shown them to be just as aggressive as my cite describes.

Did you try googling “water snake aggressive”? There are many, many cites backing up what I am saying here. Here are a few more.

As for mistaken ID on mocassins I saw: No, I’m sure.

This is from the second here return on “water snake aggressive”. The first dealt strictly with moccasins.

“It would be inappropriate not to mention the oft-observed behavior of a harassed water snake. Commonly described as “aggressive,” I contend that northern water snakes cannot be considered any more aggressive than chipmunks or bluebirds. True, both of these animals will defend themselves vigorously, biting and clawing, and sometimes doing damage to the handler. When left alone, however, chipmunks and bluebirds pose little threat to our persons. Northern water snakes bite people just as often as chipmunks and bluebirds which is to say just about every time they are grabbed. With a large head, fairly massive jaw musculature, and a mouth filled with six rows of sharp, recurved teeth, water snakes can deliver an impressive defensive strike but only to those who lay hands upon them. And this isn’t even true all of the time. I’ve been able slowly to approach some northern water snakes, carefully reach my open hands beneath their bodies, and lift them into the air, all without the snake becoming agitated or me becoming the recipient of a surprisingly strong bite. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t work! Rather, enjoy water snakes from a short distance, watching how they go about their daily activities.”

I think we are both experienced snake observers who have had differing observations. Maybe the snakes are meaner in your area. Georgia? I’ve paddled the Chatooga, beautiful river but I don’t recall seeing any snakes there. I’m wondering if the authors in your cites are using aggressive in the sense that they will bite if caught? In any event lets agree to disagree, I’m done.

It’s certainly possible that there’s a different definition of “aggressive” at work. Maybe “assertively defensive” would be better. :slight_smile: Water snakes are more apt to curl up and strike than other non-poisonous snakes, in my experience.

Happy paddling!

Back to the OP… :slight_smile:

Confronted with the business end of a garden implement, my guy ran like hell.
No display at any time, as in opening the cotton mouth and identifing his species for me.

Do non vipers have a round head? This was triangular, reminding me of a baby alligator; every snake that I’ve been close enough to touch that wasn’t green looked like a viper to me.

This is another reason water moccasins can be difficult to identify. Other water snakes have heads that can almost mimic a viper’s. Their heads are somewhere between the round heads of other non-poisonous snakes and the triangular head of the viper. Examples (all non-poisonous) here, here and here.

(Say, why is a thread about snakes generating ads about cheating spouses?)

Your first pic looks like him, Spoke, but with a yellow ventral side.