Water Snake Identification – Water Moccasin or Just a Nuisance?

With owning a pond comes the unavoidable occurrence of running into all kinds of wildlife. Most will be harmless creatures seeking water, but you will undoubtedly run across a snake or two. While snakes undoubtably have a undesirable reputation, they can be advantageous creatures to have around. They control populations of rodents and other pests that may otherwise find their way into your house. However, it is important to know the difference between a harmless water snake, and a venomous water moccasin – as a false identification can rule to a devastating outcome. Unless you can confidently tell the difference between harmless and venomous snakes, it is best to always treat all snakes as if they are venomous.

There are several meaningful differences that can help clarify which of these snakes you may happen upon. The most noticeable difference is the shape of the head. A water snake’s head will be slender and flow smoothly into the neck, while the head of a water moccasin is far more blocky, and the neck much more thin as it meets the head. Also, water moccasins are commonly referred to as “cotton mouth” because the inside of their mouth is white, which they often show as a sign of defense.

The second difference would be the body shape. Water snakes tend to have a long and slender body kind, while water moccasins have a short and stocky build. However, this alone should not be used as a meaningful identifier as body shape can vary from snake to snake. Also, in some situations, the water moccasin can be lighter in color. However, both snakes can vary from brown to black, so again, color should also not be used alone to reach a conclusion of the snake’s identity.

Next is pupil shape. If you find yourself close enough to see the pupil of the snake, (and we suggest avoiding such close closeness) water snakes have a round pupil, and water moccasins have a vertical pupil.

In terms of the behavior of both snakes, the water moccasin overall appears much more aggressive with a predominant head, stocky body, and vertical pupil. Water Moccasin bites have been known to cause harsh symptoms such a bleeding, numbness of limbs, skin discoloration, and already death. consequently, as mentioned before, unless you can confidently, easily, and properly clarify a snake, it is best to treat it as a venomous snake to avoid any danger.

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