Heart attack inducing mistaken identity Pictures Included

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by KristyHall, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. KristyHall

    KristyHall Overrun With Chickens

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    So I've been helping some family members with their lands and farms and building and such.

    Well I was camping with my father for a couple of days this week so we can monitor the large piles of brush and downed trees we were burning and we set up camp by the small creek/large stream on his property. I had my dog with me and he was having fun running around and playing with his toys while we snacked on nuts and sipping green tea.

    It was a really nice night and we were both relaxed and enjoying the rare down time. The bonfire had burned down enough that we could move closer to it, and the light it cast was fairly low since it was mostly ember like burning of the old logs as thick as my waist.

    My dog, Bear, came over to me and started pestering me. I realized he didn't have the toy he was playing with, and I figured he dropped it somewhere in the brush or by the sandy stony shore of the rock bed stream.

    I stood up and flipped on the flashlight...
    When i swept it around to the water that was less than afoot from my feet i froze and said " Oh My God"

    In the shallow part of the water, less than a foot from my feet was a fat bodied, roughly three foot long snake that was a dead ringer of a Water Moccasin (AKA Cotton Mouth).
    It had slithered right past me and was making it's way down stream on the edge of the shore, partly in the water.

    My father picked up his shot gun and said " hold the light." Normally we don't bother snakes, but a cotton mouth in spring, where we're working, is a bad combination. Suddenly I noticed it's tail, long, thing and tapered. I pointed " wait, see it's tail? it's long and thin/" my father paused and said " see that fat body though?" I said " i know, that's what has me confused."

    I walked around and crouched at a safe distance from the snake and shone the light directly into its eyes.

    No pits, slender head, and round pupils. I breathed a sigh of relief and told him " It's not a cotton mouth, just a water snake."

    That poor snake, we spent thirty minutes "harassing" it. We followed it looking at it, trying to figure out what it was exactly. It's markings were not like any water snake I had seen. It was so similar to a cotton mouth in a certain life stage. The faint tiger striping pattern crossing down its brown and gold back. While it showed no aggression, it wasn't afraid of us either. it didn't seem to care that we were studying it and talking excitedly. Eventually I nudged it with the shovel to get a better look at it stretched out, and it had enough. It slithered over the edge of a small water fall into the marshy water plants below.

    For those who do not know what a Cotton mouth is, it is a venomous pit viper that carries a potent venom that disrupts the blood's ability to clot. It can cause internal bleeding, loss of limbs, dissolving of soft tissue around the bite site, organ failure, and death. If treated right away the risk of death is very low but permanent scar is likely. If not treated in time you could have permanent tissue damage, loose a limb by amputation, or even die.

    While many snakes have white mouths, the cotton mouth is known for opening its mouth wide to display its fangs and inner white mouth as a warning to it's danger. Despite their reputation, cotton mouths prefer to warn you than attack, though during the spring, and while shedding, they can be cranky and are less likely to give you the warning display before biting.

    Other ways to identify a cotton mouth, since their color and pattern can range from almost black (most common) to brightly colored stripes/bands and yellowish tails (usually juveniles), include their arrow shape head, the heat sensing pits just below the eyes, the slitted pupils and the fact that when they swim their bodies float on the water buoyantly while non venomous water snakes tend to leave most of their bodies just below the water surface with heir heads sticking out.

    Cotton mouths prefer slow moving swampy areas while water snakes range from ponds to fast moving steams and creeks.

    Here is what a cotton mouth looks like

    Notice the fat body, and display of the inner white mouth.

    [​IMG]

    The Juvenile is brightly colored, but the triangular head shape is obvious in this picture.
    [​IMG]


    This close up shows the slited pupils
    [​IMG]




    Here is a water snake. In the dark they are almost indistinguishable from a cotton mouth. Some water snakes do not look at all like cotton mouths. Some are brightly colored, diamond patterned, red bellied, and whole other range of colors and patterns.

    Some water snakes are known to flatten their heads to try and look like they have a pit viper's angular head when threatened. So looking at the shape of the head isn't always a super reliable way to identify a cotton mouth

    This one's body is submerged with it's head sticking out. Common with non venomous water snakes.
    [​IMG]

    See the long thin tail that tapers to a tip and the slender head?
    [​IMG]


    Up close the round pupils are a dead give away to a harmless water snake (around here anyway)
    [​IMG]



    So that was my excitement for the week. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012
  2. peepacheep

    peepacheep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow, that's exciting! I have had gopher snakes to the same thing to me in broad daylight. They have vaguely similar marking to rattlesnakes. What kicks my heart up several notches is that the gopher snakes will vibrate their tails like ratttlers. While they do not have rattles they do a pretty good imitation of the sound if their tails are in dry leaves. Who needs a cup of coffee are encountering a grumpy gopher snake!
     
  3. Adenium

    Adenium Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very nice compact snake ID lesson!

    I applaud your efforts to identify rather than reflexively shoot it. I'm sure you had some adrenaline pumping after seeing its close proximity.
     
  4. KristyHall

    KristyHall Overrun With Chickens

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    [​IMG]
    I know what you mean! I've run into more than one non-venomous snake that would do that. It's pretty neat to watch.
     
  5. KristyHall

    KristyHall Overrun With Chickens

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    Thanks! I like snakes and hate to harm one that isn't an immediate threat.

    As a child I spent more time exploring the country side then staying in the house. It's a habit I still keep today. I have been lucky enough to have parents that are pretty knowledgeable about the natural world. Of all the years I spent exploring the fields and forests of the south, I have only ran into venomous snakes three times. (One rattle snake and two cotton mouths) One slithered right over my foot on a cool fall day. Non of the three ever showed any signs of trying to attack. Each time I left them alone and went on my way.

    When that cotton mouth slithered over my foot (I as about twelve) I froze and watched it slip into the water and swim off, and stayed frozen for several minutes, just terrified.

    After that I was very cautious about hanging out in the weeds of the back waters. I can only assume it was sluggish from the cool weather and had enough of me messing around it's hiding place.
     
  6. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    Yikes! I don't bother snakes much. But I took offense last summer when I was sitting on the steps of the chicken coop watching a pair of doves snacking on some bird seed I tossed in the shade of the oak tree, and looked between my legs to see a large black snake enjoying the shade my wide posterior provided.

    Now, I like being close to nature and all, but I'd rather see a snake in front of me, not under me!

    I enjoyed the snake ID lesson.
     
  7. KristyHall

    KristyHall Overrun With Chickens

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    I bet that startled you! I couldn't help but laugh at your description, though. You had every right to be indignant. [​IMG]
     
  8. un-named543

    un-named543 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Well, Kristy, there is at least one advantage to living in 'Yankee Land'. We don't have cottonmouths. [​IMG]
     
  10. KristyHall

    KristyHall Overrun With Chickens

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    Well if you're feeling deprived I'll gladly send you a few.
    I'm generous that way.
     

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