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Every step counts if you are walking through a swamp and if you do come across some reptiles it is important to know the species. I took this picture believing it is a venomous cottonmouth (water moccasin) but upon a closer look (zooming in on my computer) I found out it was actually a non-venomous water snake. Here are the most important differences:

  • the head: the cottonmouth (water moccasin) has a triangular shaped, blocky head with an obvious neck while the water snake has a more slender, elongate head that blends into the body smoothly, with no obvious neck. However if the banded water snake feels threatened it will flatten their heads and puff them up which often times will lead to misidentification
  • the eyes: the cottonmouth (water moccasin) has a vertical pupil while the banded water snake has a circular pupil
  • the cottonmouth (water moccasin) has a heat sensing pit (hole) between the nostril and the eye, the water snake has none

In any case, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to always observe wildlife from a safe distance. If you see a snake out in the wild always treat it as if it was venomous because they are very difficult to distinguish from one another.

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