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. The Juvenile is brightly colored, but the triangular head shape is obvious in this picture. This close up shows the slited pupils 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. See the long thin tail that tapers to a tip and the slender head? Up close the round pupils are a dead give away to a harmless water snake (around here anyway) So that was my excitement for the week.