WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – L-28 LEVEE, FL
This is a photo of a Florida Cottonmouth Snake in strike pose that was taken along the L-28 Levee in the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area in Collier County, Florida. The camera gear used to capture this Cottonmouth Snake was a Nikon D90 attached to a Tamron 28-300mm lens.
The Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) is a close relative of the copperhead, this snake is also known as the water moccasin. When first born, the babies look nothing like the parents. They have a wavy banded pattern in bright orange and brown, with a sulphur-yellow tail tip. As they grow, the pattern often fades away and the animal darkens, finally being anywhere from dark brown through olive green to even jet-black. In a few instances, the juvenile color and pattern remain throughout the snake’s life. One thing the babies and adults have in common is a “bandit’s mask,” a dark line which runs through the eye, bordered above and below by white.
The Cottonmouth snake is found in every county in the state, seldom far from, but not necessarily in, water. Looking, however, at the topography of Florida, with its many lakes and network of canals, they may be found in most parts of the state. There are several non-venomous types of water snake that can easily be mistaken for the cottonmouth. In the water, the cottonmouth floats very high, with most of its body visible above the water line. The non-venomous water snakes are less buoyant, swimming with little more than the head and neck exposed. Behavior is a good key to distinguishing the water snakes from the cottonmouths. When a cottonmouth feels threatened, it will most often cock its head up to a 45º angle. It will also vibrate the tail, which is not done by the water snakes. Upon further provocation, they will often assume a tight coil and throw the mouth open wide, showing you whence the name cottonmouth, as the inside of the mouth is nearly snow-white.